2017 Float Rider Honorees
Meet the float riders touched through donation and transplantation!
Angela Hadfield was born with a congenital defect called Chiari Malformation, a malformation of the brain. In 2015, she had brain surgery to repair the defect. Without this surgery, Angela may have experienced permanent nerve damage. Her allograft patch allowed her brain to have more room and the spinal fluid to flow more effectively to the rest of her body. Without this generous gift of tissue, Angela may have experienced permanent nerve damage, as well as other complications such as cysts in the spinal cord. She now is able to resume her active lifestyle, and continue working full time as a Recovery Coordinator in tissue donation. Angela is actively involved in promoting the Chiari and Syringomelia Foundation.Barbara Breckenridge was diagnosed with a kidney disease in 1993. After three years of seeing a Nephrologist, watching her diet, exercising, and much prayer with the hopes of not ever having to receive dialysis treatments, on January 2, 1996 she started hemodialysis which she thought was her death sentence. After an entire year of denial, depression, frustration and fear, she met someone who was living with a successful kidney transplant. Having received this incredible blessing has allowed Barb to be a blessing to many others in her community that are dealing with renal disease. Barb now serves as the Executive Director of the Kidney Foundation of WNY which is dedicated to increasing community awareness of kidney disease while educating, supporting, and advocating for those they serve. Barb works tirelessly in the community, providing education on kidney diseases and prevention.Brooke Sarrazin has played elite competitive softball throughout her entire life. She started noticing pain in her lower back, which turned out to be spondylolisthesis, during the eighth grade. Brooke continued to push through the pain until her numb legs caused her to collapse on the field. After the momentary paralysis, Brooke went through spinal fusion surgery which required donor tissue to aid in the fusion which allowed her to achieve a full recovery. With returning to normal life, Brooke has decided to pursue a career in healthcare in order to help others the way she has been helped. The gift of donation has given her the strength and passion to help change the lives of others.Carlie Newton was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia and received her transplant from her mother, Cindy Newton, in December of 1997. Carlie is now 18 years post-transplant and is now attending the University of Iowa as a sophomore. She is studying communications and human relations. Carlie states “I am so lucky to have received the gift of life from my mom, she is the reason I am where I am today. She is my best friend and I am forever grateful to her.”Cindy was 15 years old when her life was interrupted by Hodgkin’s Disease that required months of treatment to save her life. Twenty-three years later, Cindy’s life was again interrupted. The intense radiation that sent her childhood cancer into remission had also damaged her heart, making a transplant her only hope. She was listed for a transplant in August 2010. Today, Cindy and her family use the saying “Because Of One” to honor the many blessings one person can make possible by saying “yes” to donation. Cindy says she has thought of her donor and her family each and every one of her borrowed days. Because of one yes, her life and the lives of her husband, children, parents, siblings, family, and friends have all been touched by her donor’s most precious and selfless gift.Daniel Joseph Luevanos became a liver recipient two days after Christmas in 2003. Daniel didn’t know he needed a liver transplant until donating blood at a Red Cross Blood Drive, where he discovered that he would need to seek treatment for Hepatitis C. After a series of visits to the emergency room, Daniel was referred to a transplant program at USC, and placed on the transplant waiting list in 2001. On December 15th, after being admitted to the intensive care unit, Daniel was placed in an induced coma. However, during what doctors predicted would be his last 48 hours, Daniel received the gift of life. He now volunteers for OneLegacy to help spread the message of Donate Life. Daniel Luevanos believes that it is an honor to represent this incredible mission, his fellow Ambassadors and ultimately the selflessness of a stranger who gave him a second chance at life on this year’s Donate Life Rose Parade Float.Dorothea Duffy was the Creative Design Manager for Transplant Marketing in the pharmaceutical company where she worked. That company provided the onsite portrait photos at the Transplant Games of America. Soon after leaving her position in 2010, she was diagnosed with an uncommon autoimmune disease which affected her kidneys. She was on dialysis, and the waiting list for a kidney transplant for almost 4 years. In January 2014 Dorothea, at 60, was blessed with the long awaited kidney transplant. In April 2016, she had a special opportunity to meet the family of her donor with wonderful family and friends. Dorothea also traveled with Team Liberty to Cleveland to compete in the 2016 Transplant Games. She was thrilled to bring home three medals: a gold in bocce and a silver and, bronze in darts!30 years ago, Edgar came to the U.S. from Mexico with his family, carrying a dream to finish high school and learn English. He was a teenager with his own version of the American Dream. After dealing with several childhood health issues, his dream of continuing school in the U.S. was cut short. Edgar had developed a kidney infection that culminated in kidney failure resulting in weekly dialysis treatments. Edgar’s sister was the first to step forward, offering to be a living kidney donor. After other tests, results showed that both his sister and father were eligible donors. On April 3, 1998, Edgar received a second chance when his father’s kidney was successfully transplanted. 18 years later, Edgar enjoys his good health, is continuing his American Dream, and is an active OneLegacy Ambassador with many friends who have also been touched by organ, eye, and tissue donation.Gary’s journey began in the spring of 2014, when he noticed health issues and had multiple procedures on the heart. Husband, father, grandfather, and US Navy Vietnam-era Veteran, Gary was given a second chance at life thanks to a young man who chose to donate his organs. On November 17, Gary had his third open heart surgery and received an allograft aorta heart valve and 1 ½ of his donor’s aorta. He experienced a fast recovery thanks to the miracle, the grace of God, everyone’s prayers, a professional, caring staff, and his Heart Angel’s special gift. Gary returned to his career and has become an organ donor along with his wife to return the gift of life.Jeffrey Cole enlisted in the US Marine Corps at the age of 19. With a strong determination to serve and defend his country, his enlistment marked the fifth generation of military servicemen in his family, but the first to become a Marine. On August 17th, 2010, Jeffrey was on routine patrol with his Marine unit in Afghanistan when they faced escalating gunfire that badly wounded Jeffrey’s left arm. Jeffrey underwent surgery to repair his ulnar nerve by replacing the damaged nerve tissue through nerve allograft. This gift of tissue donation allowed his nerve to regenerate, restoring function and sensation, and helped save his arm from amputation. Jeffrey is now retired from the military, but continues to serve his country as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service in Washington, DC.On September 2012, John Whalen was diagnosed with two diseases, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis. The doctors told John that his liver was deteriorating and that he had two years to live without a transplant. The generous gift of life was given by Jason Gosnell, a 30-year-old father of two little girls, and John’s hero. Immediately following his transplant, John’s head felt clear and he vowed to take care of this gift. John now leads a healthy life style that includes jogging, cycling and hiking. John became an OneLegacy Ambassador so he could share Jason’s story, and inspire people to register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor.In 2001, at the age of 39, Karen was hospitalized with heart failure and diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. The doctors told her at that time she needed a heart transplant. With the help of her cardiologist, medication, and three defibrillators, she was able to gain stabilization and delay the need for a transplant to raise her family. Karen’s condition started to worsen in 2011. In 2014, Karen was listed for a heart transplant. She received the call that a heart had become available the evening of January 13, 2015. She now has a grandbaby whom she loves and adores, and has been able to walk in 5ks. Karen is also able to travel again and support her son’s racecar driving. Karen is forever grateful to her donor who has given her a second chance at life. She hopes to one day meet the family.While on the slopes skiing with her friends in 2014, Karen tried avoiding a high-speed collision. In her effort, Karen tore her ACL. What started off as a fun family vacation turned into a painful lasting impact in her life. Her orthopedic surgeon encouraged her to consider an allograft procedure to repair her ACL, and Karen knew it was the right thing to do. Karen worked in hospital and trauma settings for 15 years as a respiratory therapist for a level one trauma center where she placed patients on and off life support and assisted in the process of organ donation. Karen states that “obviously, receiving a donated ACL personally gives even more meaning to my support of tissue donation.” Karen thanks RTI Donor Services’ staff for continuing to be liaisons of the gift of life.Kate will proudly ride aboard in memory of her husband Derek Geer, and in celebration of the gift of life and organ donation, a cause Derek championed in line with his resolute dedication to doing good. Derek was a natural born protector, and the type of police officer who saved lives and could win over the suspects he arrested. In February of last year, when Kate received word that Derek had been injured. Kate knew right away that he wasn’t going to make it upon seeing him in the hospital. He had been shot after trying to apprehend a suspect. Derek was able to be an organ donor, giving his heart, liver, and both kidneys. Even after death, he continued his commitment to helping and protecting others – he saved four lives with his gifts.Born in Houston, TX with several heart defects, Katy Portell was not expected to live. Katy had two minor surgeries to get through her first year, but still needed heart reconstruction and a donor heart valve to survive. When Katy was 4-years-old, she underwent open-heart surgery and received a lifesaving donor pulmonary artery. Now, 22 years later Katy graduated college, lived in Alaska, volunteered for multiple Donate Life affiliates, and worked in the donation and transplantation field for 2 years with Southwest Transplant Alliance. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at Kingston University with the intention of working professionally to promote organ, eye and tissue donation.Trenton's LegacyKen Howard was diagnosed with kidney cancer and severe liver disease after returning from vacation in 2009. Ken had the cancerous kidney removed and began the process of trying to stay alive long enough to receive a transplant. On August 14, 2012, Ken received a kidney and liver transplant, and was able to return to work two months later until his retirement in 2015 as Sergeant in charge of the Detective Division with the Crawford County Sheriff’s department. His donor was 24 years’ old and an amazing young man. Ken was able to meet his donor family through the process with ARORA and they have all become a united family.At age 44, Kirby Cochran received the devastating news that he needed a liver transplant. He had been diagnosed with liver disease caused by lupus. At the time, Kirby was a hard-working detective for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office fighting crimes against women and children. By November 2012, Kirby was placed on the national transplant waiting list. The call came on January 8, 2013. The next day, Kirby kissed his friends and family goodbye and went to the operating room for his lifesaving surgery. During his recovery, Kirby had the privilege of meeting his donor’s family. He got to thank them and to learn all about the amazing person his donor, Tracy Driscoll, was. Over time, he has developed a close bond with Tracy’s family. They all attend birthday and holiday celebrations together.Logan Wilke of Edmond, Oklahoma, is not only a two time tissue recipient, he has also worked in the donation field for 10 years. He works as an Organ Recovery Coordinator for LifeShare of Oklahoma. Logan has a unique perspective on donation; he not only received tissue transplants allowing him to be active and do the things he loves to do, but he also works on the organ donation side helping to save lives. His dedication is evident not only in his work, but in his advocacy support as well. He represents the hope and life donation can provide.Sandi Gerwin is very grateful to ride on this year's float in honor of her daughter, Paige Frances Gerwin, who died March 21, 2012. During the first trimester of pregnancy, Sandi and her husband, Eric, learned that their child had anencephaly (a neural tube defect where the brain and skull don't fully develop). The Gerwins cherished Paige through a full-term pregnancy and then an additional 14 hours after birth. Throughout the pregnancy the Gerwins knew that they wanted to donate Paige's organs, knowing their daughter didn't need her organs in heaven. They were able to donate Paige’s liver cells to Cytonet (now Promethera). In addition to her donation advocacy, Sandi is also a homeschooling mom to her 3 living children (6-year-old twins and a 3-year-old).Tina Rueles is an adventurous spirit from Euless, Texas. In 2010, Tina went to the emergency room with a lung infection and needed a new set of lungs. Without them, she only had about two years to live. On Feb. 27., 2013, Tina found hope; donor lungs were discovered that matched. In a cruel twist of fate, Tina experienced the other side of transplantation when a relative suffered a tragic, fatal accident while on a family vacation in Puerto Rico. Through their tears, Tina and her family realized her niece was registered as a donor. Tina is now healthy and very active. Tina also won two silver and a bronze medal in the 2016 Transplant Games. This optician has one focus in life: not to waste a single breath.Turia Pitt, a fitness enthusiast, mining engineer and model, was caught in a freak firestorm while competing in a 100 km ultra-marathon in Western Australia in 2011. She was helicoptered out of the remote desert, barely alive, with burns to 64 percent of her body. Doctors turned to the US to find the donated skin needed to save her life; the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF) provided Turia with the life-saving gift of skin. Post skin grafting and extensive physical therapy, Turia continues to compete in triathlon and iron-man events. She is a bestselling author, motivational speaker and mentor to thousands of individuals world-wide through her online goal setting programs.At the age of 26, Veronica Cosme was enjoying a wonderful life with her husband and son and preparing for the birth of their daughter. Veronica gave birth to their daughter two months premature due to complications from preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition often characterized by high blood pressure. A biopsy on Veronica’s kidneys revealed a rare hereditary kidney disease called Alport syndrome. Her kidneys deteriorated due to her disease, and in 2013 she was listed for a kidney transplant. While waiting for a donor, she received a terrifying call that her 18-year-old niece, Alyssa J. Galvan (floragraph honoree), had passed away. A nurse called Veronica and said, “You both are beautifully matched.” After transplantation, Alyssa’s kidney started functioning immediately. Veronica has resumed to her daily activities with family and became a OneLegacy Donate Life Ambassador. Everything Veronica does is in Alyssa’s honor, bravery and legacy.In 2007, Yvonne was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and Liver Cancer. She had many fears, but relied on her faith, the Support Group, and her social worker at Cedars-Sinai for strength. She waited 2 ½ years for her lifesaving transplant, and on September 25, 2012 Yvonne was finally transplanted. She is now Cancer free and, "free from it all,” she says. As a Cedars-Sinai Ambassador for the Comprehensive Transplant Center for over 3 years, Yvonne offers practical and emotional support to pre- and post- transplant patients. She escorts patients to various appointments, answers questions about the transplant process, and offers the kind of support only someone who's been in the same shoes can. As to her work as a volunteer: “I love it and would not change being an ambassador for anything in the world,” says Yvonne.At age 2, Zion Harvey suffered a life threatening illness which caused his kidneys to fail resulting in an amputation of his two lower limbs and his two upper limbs. Zion was a very happy child who had multiple hospitalizations over the next three years where he was put on dialysis. But he still wanted to be a happy kid and play. Pattie’s mother was worked up and made the decision to donate her kidney. Zion would later get a separate hand transplant in 2015. He since has been able to play sports and activities with his peers which has put a light in Zion’s eyes that can’t be put out. Zion and his mother are excited to raise donation awareness at the Tournament of Roses Parade on the Donate Life Float.