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Manteca family honored in Wall of Hope unveiling
Zona and Jose Zaragoza. - photo by Photo Contributed

“There isn’t a shortage of organs – there is a shortage of organ donors.” – Zona Zaragoza whose young son Matthew saved the lives of four strangers who received his organs after he died days after playing football at East Union High.

That quote is on the plaque that will occupy a place of honor on the Wall of Hope is being unveiled today at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. Matthew’s parents, Zona and Jose Zaragoza, are among the donor families being honored during the 10:45 a.m. ceremony is being held in conjunction with National Minority Donor Awareness Week at the medical center.

Among the featured guests and speakers is State Senator Tom Berryhill, (R-Modesto) 14th district, who is a heart transplant recipient, said Alfonso Garcia of the Oakland-based non-profit California Transplant Donor Network.

“There will be many Latino families that decided to donate their loved ones’ organs and tissues to save the lives of many others” that are also being honored, and “they will be speaking as well,” Garcia said.

The Zaragoza family is being honored not only for their life-saving decision to donate their son Matthew’s organs but also for the work they have done since in encouraging people to become organ donors, said Garcia.

“They are actually ambassadors of the California Transplant Donor Network,” he said.

There are 40 plaques or panels that make up the Wall of Hope honoring organ and tissue donors and transplant recipients. They are displayed in the main hallway of the hospital located at 1441 Florida Avenue in Modesto.

Other guests who are speaking at the event this morning are Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh who will present a National Minority Donor Awareness Week proclamation to Doctors Medical Center, Doctors Chairman of the Board Bill Seavy, and Sharon Sumner of Modesto who received a heart transplant. Like the Zaragozas, her story also is depicted on the Wall of Hope.

The Zaragoza family’s panel shows a picture of Zona and Jose Zaragoza holding a framed picture of their son in his high school football uniform surrounded by the pictures of the four lives he saved. The photo collage is titled, “Matthew Zaragoza Van Gelderen Donated 7 organs to save 4 lives.” On the left side of the picture is the story, “Matthew becomes a hero to many others.”

The story reads in part: “What would Matthew have wanted? In 2005, his parents, Jose and Zona Zaragoza, faced that question. After a high school football, followed by many days of waiting, Matthew was pronounced brain dead. They were asked if they wanted to donate his organs and tissues. Matthew had never mentioned his wishes to his parents, but the family decided that because of the person Matthew was, the only answer was, ‘Yes.’

“Their son became a hero and saved the lives of four strangers, helped heal many more with the gift of his tissues, and gave sight to another with corneas.”

The text adds that the Zaragozas have since become “passionate” volunteers of California Transplant Donor Network in helping educate young people about registering as organ donors.

Today’s ceremonies will be held in the Cardinal Room of the hospital nearest to the Outpatient Services Lobby and is accessible from the Orangeburg Avenue side of the hospital just before Florida Avenue. Guest are asked to park in the outpatient services parking which is the first lot entrance before turning onto Florida Avenue from Orangeburg.

Following the unveiling of the panels and presentation of medals to the families honored, there will be a tour of the Wall of Hope.

The California Transplant Donor Network helps 175 hospitals in 41 Northern and Central California and Northern Nevada counties that offer the option of organ and tissue donation to families whose loved ones have died, according to information from the network. For further information about the non-profit organization, visit

Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, a 461-bed acute care hospital, is part of Tenet California.