2016 Float Rider Honorees
Meet the float riders touched through donation and transplantation!
In the summer of 2012, Anna wasn’t feeling like her spirited self and went to the hospital for a chest x-ray. Countless visits and tests later, the doctors found that Anna had been living with a rare form of heart disease. After 832 days of waiting, a generous donor provided Anna with a new heart. Ever since then, Anna has been committed to honoring her donor in everything that she does. While waiting for a new heart, she fell in love with golfing and has since sparked a relationship with fellow heart recipient Erik Compton. Like Compton, Anna has become a strong advocate for organ donation and shares her story in hopes to inspire others to become registered donors.Beth Adler-Bush of Hamilton, New Jersey, is a very active mother and veterinarian. She loves interacting with animals and enjoys going to the gym to “blow off steam.” While decorating her house for Halloween, she fell from a ladder and landed directly on her knee, rupturing her ACL. Beth had no idea how much of her daily routine depended on her ACL. Simple things such as dancing or working with her patients became extremely difficult. After Beth received the patellar ligament that repaired her ACL, she immediately wrote a letter to her donor’s family, thanking them. “Somebody gave up part of his or her own knee so I could have mine back?!” she said. “I learned first-hand just how much that donation meant to a recipient.”In March of 2012, at an early ultrasound, Bethany and her husband, learned their unborn baby had a terminal neural tube defect and would pass away in utero or shortly after birth. They decided to carry the child to term and named their little boy Amalya Nathaniel meaning “work of the Lord, given by God.” In order to make the most of Amalya’s life, Bethany pursued organ donation. Amalya’s liver, pancreas, and whole body were donated for research and in return, have already begun saving lives due to the knowledge gained. This year, Bethany honors Amalya by participating as a rider on this year’s float. In order to honor their son, Bethany and her husband have started a nonprofit entitled Purposeful Gift in order to educate and facilitate other families through neonatal organ donation.Brianna graduated from West Career and Technical Academy high school in June of 2013 with an emphasis in pre-med. Later, she would find out that the knowledge she just learned would be put to the test as she fought to survive kidney disease. It came out of the blue with no known history of any kidney issues. On December 9, 2013 Brianna was diagnosed with stage 5 kidney disease and rushed to the hospital where she had an emergency dialysis line put in. She started dialysis at age 18 while still going to college. Brianna feels she was lucky, in that, she received a kidney transplant after waiting just a year and a half. On May 5, 2015 at the age of 20, Brianna participated in a kidney exchange.In 2007 Carmen was attacked by her husband. He had splashed her with industrial strength Iye, giving her 3rd and 4th degree burns that covered 80 percent of her body. Carmen lost her sight, eyelids, lips, the ability to breathe, was severely disfigured, and had significant scarring on her neck. She was extremely uncomfortable. On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Carmen received a full face and neck transplant. It was the first face transplant in the world that did not have a complete match with the donor. But it gave her a new lease on life. Now, Carmen has a lovely relationship with her donor’s daughter and speaks at organ banks and conferences around the country.One of Dan’s many passions is being in the ocean and surfing. In November of 2003, it looked like he would never be able to surf again when he was admitted to the hospital for kidney failure. He was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy which left both of his kidneys in bad condition. A close friend and 2016 float rider, Tiana Watson, stepped up to donate him her kidney and on August 3, 2004 the procedure was completed. Almost immediately, the new kidney began doing the work that Dan’s body had been missing for so long. Today, Tina and Dan have begun families and Dan has continued his passion for surfing.Emma was diagnosed with Scoliosis in 2009. The curvature of her spine was progressing rapidly and nothing seemed to be able to fix it. After dozens of doctor’s visits, tests, and treatment options, Emma was referred to the Shriner’s hospital where she was put on the fast track list to receive surgery as soon as possible. On March 19, 2012, Emma received the Spinal Fusion that changed her life forever. She is now able to do anything she wants without pain or discomfort. Emma is thankful for everyone at Shriner’s hospital that gave her the opportunity to receive the treatment she needed.Gail Gallagher honors her daughter by participating as a rider on this year’s float. When Kate Gallagher was placed on the waiting list for a liver transplant in 2009, Gail did not expect her to become an organ donor instead. Kate was diagnosed with Budd-Chiari Syndrome, a clotting disease of the liver, during her senior year. Known for her joyous spirit, compassionate heart, and special way with young children, Kate went on to study early childhood development, work with elementary students, and become engaged to be married. Unfortunately, Kate suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on March 12, 2012 and passed away before she could receive a new liver. Fortunately, she saved three lives that day.George received the greatest gift when his best friend, Freddie, chose to directly donate his brother Sisto’s heart and kidney to him. George was 60 years old and living with the assistance of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). George has always had a passion for helping and inspiring others, especially youth. For over 35 years, he coached youth and high school sports while also acting as a league administrator. Today, he treasures life like never before and thanks God that his friend had the strength to make such a difficult decision. This new lease on life allows George the opportunity to continue with his passion of helping others by spreading the word of organ donation and taking care of his two grandsons.Jim believes that he is a lucky man with a lucky life. Every single day he thanks the people who were the bridge between his donor, Brice Fabing (Florgraph honoree), and his triple-transplant at Cedars-Sinai. Type 1 diabetes came close to taking Jim’s life and left him with the need for a rare triple-transplant. Yet, thanks to Brice, Jim wakes up every day with a sense of hope that binds us all together. Brice’s gifts give Jim the ability to see another lifetime. Brice is his hero!Judith is 47 years old and currently waiting for her third kidney transplant. Throughout the past three years, Judith has been an ambassadress for One Legacy where she educates the community about the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation and how to become a donor. Being an ambassadress for One Legacy is important to Judith because of the success of her two previous transplants. Judith has had a second chance at life with the ability to see her son grow into a responsible adult. Of her time as an ambassadress for One Legacy, Judith believes she has become a better person and better appreciates life.Julie Durr is honoring her father Russ Gerdin by participating as a rider on this year’s float. Russ was born in Princeton, MN to a humble and hard-working trucking family. In 1967 Russ married Ann and started his own trucking company, Heartland Express. In 1978, the two moved their three children to Iowa City to expand both their business and their family. In 2006, Russ was diagnosed with liver cancer. Shortly after, he received a liver transplant. The Gerdin family was more than overwhelmed with the gift of life and years someone gave Russ. From 2006-2011, Russ was able to build Heartland's new corporate office, see five more grandchildren come into the world, celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary and visit many places he had still wanted to see.Born with a developmental delay & deaf, Kerry Carpenter has faced many challenges in his 42 years. He loved being with his family & deaf community in Kansas but in 2012 juvenile diabetes had ravaged his body. Unfortunately, doctors said he'd need a kidney transplant. His sister, Renee Cline, was fortunate to be a match and able to donate her kidney. This life changing event opened up a world of opportunity for Kerry, including another transplant!! Two years later he received a pancreas transplant from a anonymous donor, freeing him from his diabetes. Kerry is so grateful for his anonymous donor, sister, and the medical staff and caregivers who've helped along the way.Lisa Barker realizes a selfless ‘yes’ during a time of tragedy, can save so many lives. In just a few days, Lisa’s world was turned upside down when she learned that her abdominal pain was actually a rare liver condition called Budd Chiari. Her liver, kidney, and respiratory system went into failure. She was given only 48 hours to live. On February 6, 2014, just 10 hours after being put on the national transplant waiting list, a liver became available. Since her transplant, Lisa has returned to work as a dental hygienist and volunteers her time with organizations like Southwest Transplant Alliance, speaking to others about the importance of donation. She also keeps in close contact with her donor’s, Courtney Sterling (2016 Donate Life Float floragraph honoree), family.Lucia, a 26-year-old Northern California native, was recovering from a successful kidney transplant when she noticed her vision was starting to deteriorate. She was diagnosed with Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome (ICE) syndrome, a very rare condition that causes damage to the cornea. Thankfully, ICE can be treated with a corneal transplant. Lucia’s sister had lovingly donated her new kidney, but the cornea for Lucia’s transplant would come from someone she did not know who had graciously chosen to make their last act one of generosity. ”My transplant experiences have taught me to appreciate more and love deeper”, Lucia says. Lucia now lives a full life enjoying her many passions which include: writing, spending time with her family and friends, helping people and animals and enjoying the beauty of the world.Makenzie Kern’s life was changed by Jacob Krebs’ (2015 floragraph honoree) gift of donation. At the age of 14, she was excited to be adding field hockey to the list of sports she already enjoyed. About half way through the season, she began to experience a lot of pain in her right knee. She continued to play but she was struggling to run and complained of pain every day. After multiple visits and tests, an exploratory surgery was conducted only to find out that Makenzie’s ACL was 90% torn. It was through Jacob’s loss and generous donation of a tissue graft that her knee was able to be repaired. The transplant Makenzie received that day has meant everything to her. Her life has returned to the activities she loved and enjoyed, but now she has a deeper appreciation of life.When Mark’s family received the call that there was a new heart for Mark, there was a mix of emotions. Mark had survived numerous heart attacks, an emergency bypass surgery, was in end-stage congestive heart failure and had spent four months waiting for a heart. However, when Mark received his gift of life, the Meades couldn’t help feeling that while they were at their highest; another family was at their lowest. Mark and his wife of 50 years, Terry, have reached out to his donor family multiple times since and honor their donor in everything they do every day. They are active advocates for donating and are trained volunteers for multiple donor programs. Donors are their Heroes!Mason survived his first cardiac arrest at 16. Four years later, after suffering a second cardiac arrest, it was discovered that he had a heart defect. With medication, Mason was able to successfully manage his condition for thirty years. However, when he was put on a pacemaker at the age of fifty, he slowly began to suffer from progressive congestive heart failure. He was told he needed a heart transplant. On April 8, 2010 at 11:45pm Mason received the phone call that there was a heart available for him. When he awoke in his own home on April 18, Mason celebrated his 54th birthday, his new heart, and the young man who saved his life. On Sunday November 15, 2015, Mason was able to marry his partner of 19 years!In June 2014, Matthew Jayroe was ecstatic after making the Northside Methodist JV basketball team as an eight-grader. However, in late July, Matthew suffered a devastating injury amounting in the loss of nerve function from his heel through his first three toes. This injury made it difficult to compete on the team. On August 7th 2014, Matthew underwent surgery to repair the damaged nerve tissue and replace it with a processed nerve allograft, allowing the nerves to regenerate and restore his sensation. Matthew is now back to being an active teenager, running, climbing trees and playing basketball, thanks to his generous donor.On December 20, 1993 Miguel’s first born son, Jacob, was born. Thanks to a cornea transplant two months prior, he was able to see his child. Miguel was diagnosed with Keratoconus, a degenerative disorder of the eye which in the late 1980s eventually leads to that eye being declared blind. Thanks to his life changing transplant, Miguel began volunteering at Upstate Transplant in order to spread the word of his experience to donor families, transplant recipients, and medical professionals. In 2013 Miguel received another successful transplant of tissue to rebuild the gums in his mouth. Now, Miguel serves as the Deacon for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, providing him with an even larger platform to share the work of Upstate Transplant.Miren would not be active today and enjoy the quality of life he has, if it were not for another person making the decision to become a tissue donor. Miren was an avid runner for many years, competing in the South Carolina Grand Prix Circuit. Running came to a halt when he developed arthritis in both hips, causing pelvis damage. Fortunately, that damage was repaired with several bone grafts in 2005. Miren’s transplant has allowed him to return to his active lifestyle and in 2014 he won several gold medals at the Donate Life Transplant Games as a member of “Team South Carolina”.In the summer of 2007, 25-year-old Monica was diagnosed with lupus. In only two short years and despite aggressive treatment, the disease had so ravaged Monica’s kidneys that she was added to the national transplant waiting list. Determined and with the support of her mother, Marilyn, Monica pushed herself to continue working, teaching Sunday school and staying active, even when things got tough. When the call came, they celebrated a new start, while at the same time, praying for a family grieving a devastating loss. Today, Monica has a renewed sense of purpose. She is a full-time accountant and is studying for her MBA. She also volunteers at her former dialysis center and as an advocate for donation.At 2 a.m. on October 14, 2012, just one week before his 62nd birthday, Ralph received the call that there was a new heart available for him. It had been eight years since he was first diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a degenerative heart disease that over time, left his heart function at 5-10 percent. After years of failed treatments and pacemaker/defibrillator implantations, Ralph received the new heart that he needed. Through the miracle gift of his heart transplant, Ralph was able to continue his life with his wife and children. He is now retired and able to enjoy tinkering on vehicles, riding his motorcycle and enjoying vacations with his wife. Since his transplant, Ralph has created a special bond with his donor’s family and acts as a grandfather to their children.Wesley R. Mallicone was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. His childhood seemed to be a healthy one until he began having stomach issues and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) at age nine. When he was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PCS) age 13, doctors told him that he would need a liver transplant by the age of 25 in order to survive. He went on to attend Duquesne University and had an amazing college experience while earning a Bachelor’s Degree. After Duquesne, he pursued a Master’s degree at Shippensburg University, worked as a Graduate Assistant and interned for the Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately, Wesley’s health deteriorated again at age 32, but this time, he was able to receive a liver transplant and now, he is happy and doing what he loves as the Director of Sports Medicine at Shippensburg University.