Unique angel bonfire honors crash victim who donated organs to save people on Christmas Day

Bonfires on the Levee is an annual holiday tradition that attracts thousands of people to Louisiana.
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 10:57 PM CST

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Bonfires on the Levee is an annual holiday tradition that attracts thousands of people to Louisiana.

The creative and unique pyramids of burning logs pay tribute to the state’s culture and heritage, but there’s one, in particular, that has a very personal and special meaning.

“I told myself that I was going to build a bonfire in memory of her, and it has to be an angel,” Darren St. Pierre said.

St. Pierre spent roughly 80 hours building a 12-foot bonfire in the shape of an angel, equipped with praying hands, wings, and a halo.

He says the wooden structure has attracted a lot of attention in recent days, with many asking about the backstory behind the bonfire.

St. Pierre says the inspiration came from his niece, Aliye Ringe.

“I went to my sister-in-law with the idea, because I wanted to get her blessing first,” St. Pierre said.

Ringe died after a car crash on Dec. 23, 2021.

However, Ringe was an organ donor, and her death resulted in five strangers receiving the gift of life on Christmas Day of last year.

“She may have lost her life, but she donated a gift,” St. Pierre said.

Aliye’s grandmother, Leah Veck, hopes this will inspire young people and others to also become an organ donor.

Veck has spent the past year advocating lawmakers to make sure all future drivers in the state are informed about the benefits of becoming a donor.

In May, the Louisiana House of Representatives Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee unanimously passed House Resolution 130, which urges the Office of Motor Vehicles to include all driver education programs to provide information on organ, eye, and tissue donation.

“We have so many young people right now dying of overdoses and killing each other. We need to teach each other to value life,” Veck said.

As far as Christmas presents go, Veck says this one is at the top.

“This, right now, is the best. Because this is what our hearts needed,” Veck said.

For more information on becoming a donor, visit LOPA.org.

Bonfires on the Levee kicks off on Christmas Eve in St. James Parish. For more information, click here.

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