Donate Life's 2013 Rose Parade® Float to Honor the Life-Saving Gifts of 72 Organ, Eye and Tissue Donors
Memorial "Floragraph" Portraits from 34 States and the Dominican Republic to be Completed by Family Members
LOS ANGELES, Calif., Oct. 16, 2012 – Seventy-two organ, eye and tissue donors will be honored with floral memorial "floragraph" portraits that will grace the Donate Life float in the 2013 Rose Parade®. Each of the individuals portrayed in the floragraphs left a positive impact on their family, communities, and those they helped. The 72 floragraphs will line the heart-shaped path rising above 32 riders aboard the float, themed Journeys of the Heart, which dramatizes the ups and downs experienced by donor families, transplant recipients and living donors.
"The donors' families and dozens of volunteers will decorate the portraits with grains, flowers, seeds, spices and other organic materials," said Bryan Stewart, chairman of the Donate Life float committee and vice president of communications at OneLegacy, the nonprofit organ and tissue recovery organization serving the greater Los Angeles area. "For many of their families, this is a unique opportunity to see their loved one shine before millions of people worldwide and to gain special recognition for their gifts of life and hope."
The floragraphs will be decorated before Christmas in Pasadena, with about a third of the portraits completed by the family members themselves. The remainder of the portraits will be partially decorated in Pasadena so that they can be completed by family members at local finishing events in their hometowns. These events are typically held at locations significant to the honoree's life: schools, houses of worship, or hospitals where the donation occurred. "These local events bring the Donate Life float experience home to the communities that meant so much to the donor," Stewart noted.
After a decade of Donate Life floats and other regional and national campaigns, the remarkable fact for this special tenth-year float are the number of floragraph honorees who either signed up to donate their organs and tissue or indicated their desire to family members. The youngest of these were only 11 and 12: Ryan Lee Webster of Waco, Tex. and Delaney Van Wert of Niskayuna, N.Y., were too young to sign up through a driver's license, yet both made a point of telling family members how much they wanted to help others when they were gone.
Two honorees will be represented on the float by loved ones. Quinn Vittorio Wilde of Bryan, Ohio, was only nine weeks old when we was discovered not breathing as a result of an unknown seizure disorder. Quinn's donations helped to save the lives of two infants, and his mother Denien will ride alongside her son's portrait on New Year's Day. Officer Jeremy Henwood, Captain (Major Select) USMC of San Diego, Calif., who was shot while trying to help a seemingly distressed motorist, will appear in a portrait alongside his sister Emily Henwood of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Those honored who, like Jeremy Henwood, died helping others are among the most poignant. "Trooper Tony" Radulescu of Port Orchard, Wash., served his country as a highly-decorated member of the U.S. Army before retiring and joining the Washington State Patrol. In Florida, Justin “Sollo” Sollohub of Jacksonville, Ala. had always loved law enforcement, and he was proud to earn a place in the Special Response Team with the Armiston Police Department. He was gunned down at age 27. Another 27-year-old, Joshua Keith Robertson of Bakersfield, Calif., was trying to help a drive-thru worker being bullied by unruly customers when he was beaten to death. The living legacies of all four men inspired many in their communities to make the commitment to donation.
Five floragraph honorees are distinguished by their recipients being among the float's riders. A portrait of George Becker of Lincoln, Calif., will accompany his liver recipient, 18-year-old Alfonso Garcia of Pinole, Calif. Two honorees, Sallustiano De Jesus of Santiago, Dominican Republic and Jorge Gonzalez of Miami, Fla., will be celebrated by the float riders who received their hearts: Neal Bira of Coral Springs, Fla. and Mark Reagan of Morristown, N.J., respectively. Kidney recipient Jonathan Finger of Westminster, Colo. will look upon a portrait of his donor, Taylor Storch of Coppell, Tex. Twelve-year-old kidney recipient Ernesto Chavez of Palm Springs, Calif. will ride alongside a portrait of his hero, Iraq veteran Gabriel Barajas of Los Angeles, Calif., who was part of the Special Forces team that captured Saddam Hussein.
Three stories have close ties to the Donate Life float and the Tournament of Roses itself. Alfredo Diaz of Ontario, Calif., who served as a Tournament of Roses volunteer for more than 25 years, helped more than 50 people as a tissue donor. Another honoree, Mary Frances DeFerrari of Lafayette, Calif., never knew that the lung she donated would be transplanted into the chest of Gary Foxen of Orange, Calif. Gary was so moved by his transplant experience that he wrote a letter suggesting a Donate Life float in the Rose Parade. Gary will meet his donor's daughter, Jessica, for the first time as they decorate her mother's floragraph together. Kari Barlament, the wife of honoree Eric Barlament of Brillion, Wis., will return to Pasadena with her daughter Erica, who was only four months old when Kari rode the inaugural Donate Life float on New Year's Day 2004.
The Donate Life float will also be privileged to honor Elizabeth Ann Logelin of Minnetonka, Minn., whose sudden death at age 30 the day after giving birth to her first child inspired her husband Matt to write the New York Times bestseller, Two Kisses for Maddy.
Today, more than 115,000 candidates are on the national organ transplant waiting list. Largely due to the rarity of donation opportunities, only about 28,000 organs are transplanted each year. As a result, 18 candidates die each day for lack of a donor. A single organ donor can save the lives of eight people through organ donation, while a single tissue donor can save and heal 50 others through needed heart valves, corneas, skin, bone, and tendons that mend hearts, prevent or cure blindness, heal burns and save limbs.
The 2013 Donate Life float is built by Phoenix Decorating Co. from a design by Dave Pittman and is coordinated by Donate Life America member OneLegacy. The Donate Life float campaign is supported by more than 120 official sponsors from coast to coast, including organ and tissue recovery organizations, tissue banks, state donor registries, transplant centers, hospitals, funeral homes and affiliated organizations. Joining OneLegacy as top-level benefactors are the Dignity Memorial® network, North America's largest network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers; the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB); the Donate Life America; the Order of St. Lazarus, an international order originally founded in the 11th century; TBI/Tissue Banks International; and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the National Donor Memorial.
All Donate Life float sponsors encourage parade viewers to join the nation's 107 million registered donors so that everyone whose life depends on a transplant may receive one. Registrations can be made through state registries, links to which can be found at www.DonateLifeAmerica.org. Further information about the Donate Life float, decorating, and dedication garden can be found at www.DonateLifeAmerica.org.
The Pasadena Tournament of Roses is a volunteer organization that annually hosts the Rose Parade速 presented by Honda, Rose Bowl Game® presented by VIZIO® and various associated events. The 124th Rose Parade presented by Honda, themed "Oh, the Places You'll Go!™," will take place Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, at 8 a.m. (PST) featuring majestic floral floats, high-stepping equestrian units and spirited marching bands. Following the parade, the 99th Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO will kick off at 2:10 p.m. and feature an exciting match-up between two of the top collegiate football teams in the nation. For additional information on the Tournament of Roses please visit the official website at www.tournamentofroses.com.