2015 Riders

The Donate Life float’s Riders represent millions of organ, tissue and cornea transplant recipients who are grateful to donors for their gifts of life.

Michael Adams
On Thanksgiving eve 2002, Michael Adams sat in a recliner with an oxygen cannula in his nose, receiving eight liters of oxygen and gasping for air. With only 17 percent lung function, he had end-stage cystic fibrosis. That night he was admitted to the hospital because he didn’t want to die at home. On December 5, his pastor read him his last rites. The next morning, he received the call that he had waited for more than two years – a pair of lungs was now available. Since then, Michael has traveled all over the world, enjoys kayaking and playing tennis. He participated in the 2004 U.S. Transplant Games, medaling in men’s tennis.He has a deep bond with the mother of his organ donor, Tory Howe Lynch, a 15-year-old boy who was gunned down while waiting for choir practice on the church steps.

Dr. Phil Berry
In the early 1980s, Dr. Phil Berry, a Dallas surgeon, contracted hepatitis B from a cut in the operating room. As his condition worsened, he needed a liver transplant to stay alive. On October 26, 1987, he received the liver of a 30-year-old woman who had died suddenly of an aneurysm. Dr. Berry was back operating only two months later and has continued operating to this day. He has also become a passionate advocate for donation. While president of the Texas Medical Association (TMA) in 1997, Dr. Berry selected organ donation as TMA’s area of focus for the year. He spoke to more than 30 county medical societies about organ donation and all of TMA’s doctors signed donor cards that year. Dr. Barry remains one of the longest surviving liver transplant recipients in Texas.

Tim Bishop
In September 1999, Tim Bishop, was healthy, active and athletic. At 26, he had recently married, and he and his wife were about to have a baby. On September 11, Plizia Marie was born. That same day was quickly overshadowed when Tim was admitted to the hospital with severe fluid retention, a condition he had been battling for a year. As Tim became more ill, he suffered from fluid retention throughout his body and was diagnosed with nephritic syndrome, a kidney disease. In 2002, he was put on peritoneal dialysis and put on the transplant waiting list. On October 16, 2004, he received his new kidney. Now 41, Tim, a member of the Osage Nation Tribe, encourages other Native American communities to learn more about donation. “I want the Native American communities to be aware of transplantation as an option in healthcare,” he confirmed.

Bree Ahnne Bowers
Before Bree Ahnne Bowers was one year old, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF). Her parents made sure that she led a relatively normal life with many after-school activities, balancing everyday life with her daily medical regimes to make sure she maintained her health as best she could. But CF still took a toll on her lungs. By the time Bree graduated from high school in 2007, her lung function had decreased to 54 percent. Bree was put on the waiting list for a lung transplant on November 11, 2009. After two years on the list, she opted for new lung lobes via living donors. Her father and her sister, Amber, qualified to be Bree’s living donors and on December 15, 2011, Bree was given a second chance at life. She graduated from college in 2013. Bree also runs, hikes, and work part-time. “This life is a gift from God,” she said. “I intend to treasure it.”

John Brockington
An All-American running back at Ohio State University, John Brockington helped his team to win the National Championship in the 1968 Rose Bowl. He then became the Green Bay Packers’ first pick in the 1971 NFL draft and broke records and garnered honors for his team and himself. In 1984, he was accepted into the Packers Hall of Fame. After moving to San Diego, John became friends with long-time Packers fan Diane Scott. When John suffered kidney failure in 2000, Diane offered to become his donor and on November 28, 2001, 5’2″ Diane donated her kidney to her 6’1″ friend. They married after he returned to health. Together, they direct the John Brockington Foundation to increase organ donation and raise funds for pre- and post-transplant patients. John is also on the board of directors of Donate Life America, as well on the advisory boards of both Explore Transplant and Lifesharing. John will ride the Donate Life float while his donor wife Diane walks proudly alongside him as living donor.

Monica Elaine Brown
In 2005, Monica Brown began experiencing flu-like symptoms and was in and out of the hospital for the next two years. She was finally diagnosed with lupus and high blood pressure which eventually caused end-stage kidney disease and required dialysis. As it happened, Monica had been working in a dialysis unit for ten years, so she was very familiar with kidney disease and the process. On August 9, 2012, she received her new kidney. The following year, Monica and her husband attended a candlelight memorial ceremony to honor her donor and celebrate the wonderful gift she had been given. There, by accident, she met the mother of Abby Cecena, her donor. Monica will ride on the Donate Life float near Abby’s floragraph.

Ted Cochran
At age 1?, Ted Cochran needed surgery for bladder blockage, but Ted’s kidneys had sustained permanent damage and he was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. He endured multiple major surgeries and spent many weeks in the hospital. When Ted was 19, he suddenly became extremely ill and went into septic shock, causing further damage to his kidneys that progressed into end-stage kidney disease and the need for a transplant. Ted’s mother, Carla Cochran, was a match and donated her kidney to her son. “On August 29, 2006, I received the most loving, compassionate, and selfless gift from my mother, the ‘Gift of Life’ by way of a kidney transplant,” he said. In gratitude, Ted created the My Angel Foundation to inspire Iowans to become registered donors. On New Year’s Day, as Ted rides the float, his donor, Carla, will walk proudly alongside.

Jazmyn N. Creason
Jazmyn N. Creason was a healthy 16-year-old student and athlete looking forward to graduating from high school a year early with plans to become an attorney. But, out of the blue, she had an intense pain in her side during softball practice and was diagnosed with Caroli disease, a rare liver condition. For the next year, Jazmyn traveled to six children’s hospitals looking for answers as her condition worsened. A transplant became her only option and on February 13, 2011, Jazmyn received her new liver. Jazmyn’s donor was an 18-year-old boy from California who was killed in a car accident and whose organs saved Jazmyn’s life as well as the lives of seven others. Now, more than three years later, Jazmyn is 21 and helping others with “Jazmyn’s Lunch Break,” which offers respites for parents of chronically ill children.

Joe DiSanto
When Joe DiSanto was 11 years old, he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. After the diagnosis, he had to give up all competitive sports and start taking heart medications. Several months later, he went into cardiac arrest and was told that he needed a heart transplant. On July 8, 2006, he was given a second chance at life. Six years later, he met his donor’s mother. Since his transplant, Joe has participated in the Transplant Games, which have brought sports back into his life. Joe and his family now volunteer with the New Jersey Sharing Network to spread the word about organ donation.

Jake Doud
Jake Doud’s life was never without sport, as one season ended, another began. Soccer became basketball, basketball became track, and he enjoyed the athletic challenge of each sport. However, constant knee pain threatened to put him on the bench. After diagnosing him with osteochondritis dissecans, Jake’s doctor used bone and cartilage allografts to replace the damaged tissue in his knee.
Jake understood prior to his surgery that a deceased tissue donor made the bone and cartilage allografts possible. “My immediate reaction was sadness,” he revealed. “Today I am very appreciative that the person chose to be a donor and wanted to help someone beyond their own life.”

Clare Dowling
While attending college in 2009, Clare Dowling, then 18, noticed that she was short of breath when walking from class to class. She was diagnosed with pulmonary veno-oclusive disease (PVOD) and in need of a double-lung transplant. As Clare’s health rapidly declined, she was put on the organ transplant waitlist in April 2010 and received her new lungs on August 26.
While Clare does not know the identity of her donor, she honors him/her by always living her life to the fullest. She has been able to get back to her lifelong passion of horseback riding and has gone back to school where she is a college senior studying sociology. Clare does her best to take care of her new lungs and renewed health.

Shari Lynn England
In 1997, Shari Lynn England was a 37-year-old busy wife and mother of three; she was also youth director at her church and worked full-time. Shari began to notice how fatigued she was feeling. After many tests, she was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe cirrhosis brought about over a period of many years by an unsuspected autoimmune disorder. The signs had been virtually undetectable. It was too late for the liver to heal itself and too late for medication, as well. Shari’s doctor estimated her liver would last no more than four years – a liver transplant was her only chance of survival. In 1999, Shari was put on the waiting list. Eighteen months later, on August 7, 2001, she received her new liver. Upon examining her damaged liver, the doctor estimated she would not have survived two more weeks.

Alma Feliz
In 1989, nine-year-old Alma Liliana Feliz was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. She experienced chest pain often as her condition worsened. On February 2, 1992, she received her first heart transplant. During the next 14 years she led a normal life. In December 2004, Alma began to feel chest pain again and was diagnosed with coronary artery disease, a common, long-term side effect of some of her medication. Because she had already had a heart transplant, her only option for treatment was another heart transplant. “I was given another chance to live. I am so thankful and still to this day cannot believe I have had two heart transplants.”

Kathy Forti
As a single mother of three, Kathy Forti had a particularly close relationship with her eldest son, Tommy Burley. She taught him to play baseball and stood by his side when he was nominated to be in the Little League Baseball Hall of Fame. An “old soul,” Tommy would care for his mother through her autoimmune disorders. When he was getting his driver’s license, Kathy brought up the topic of organ and tissue donation and was surprised when Tommy said that he had already made the decision to register. Tommy joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves and became a volunteer firefighter, all by the age of 20. On June 18, 2013, Tommy was in a fatal motorcycle accident on his way home from firefighter training. Grief-stricken, Kathy was unable to face many of the difficult decisions that would follow. But one thing was certain: Tommy would be a donor.

Gilda Gopal
In 2002, at age 35, Philippines native Gilda Gopal was living in the Bay Area and working in a home improvement store. Until then, she had always enjoyed good health, but was now bothered by a cough and fatigue. When she finally went to a doctor, the news was devastating – she was in renal failure and was immediately sent to the ER, where she was put on dialysis. Because she needed regular treatments, she and her husband, Raj, could not travel much and the rigors of dialysis left her drained. “After each session, I wanted to sleep all day, but I had to work full time,” she said. Four years later, Gilda’s life was restored thanks to a kidney donor. Now Gilda and Raj volunteer as Donate Life Ambassadors for the California Transplant Donor Network.

Paulina Guevara
In 2005, at age 13, Paulina Guevara was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. For two years, she was on medications, but then went into kidney failure. She began dialysis immediately and was placed on the transplant waiting list. After nearly four years on dialysis, Paulina, then 19, received her transplant on February 19, 2010. During this time, her father’s kidneys also began to fail. He died in October 2011 and became a tissue donor. Paulina and her mother are now Spanish-speaking volunteers for OneLegacy and share their experiences and the benefits of donation with the Latino community.

Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson’s daughter, Nicole Scott, was a vivacious, passionate 15-year-old who never met a stranger and enjoyed the role of social coordinator among her friends. A gifted athlete, Nicole was involved in a fatal car accident on June 4, 2001. Amidst the devastation of losing a child, Amy knew that her generous daughter would do anything to help someone in need and agreed to organ donation. Thanks to Nicole’s gifts, three people were given a second chance at life. Amy has met all three and has formed a bond with each: a Utah woman who received Nicole’s heart; a Colorado man who received Nicole’s liver; and a New York woman who received Nicole’s kidney.

Naomi F. Kurlowich
Diagnosed at birth with Down Syndrome, Naomi Kurlowich never let it slow her down, from playing on a local softball team for children with developmental challenges, to being a physically active student at school. But Naomi began to experience severe knee pain. Children with Down Syndrome have a genetic predisposition to suffering from orthopedic problems like joint instability. When she was about eight, Naomi began to experience painful dislocations of her kneecaps. Her doctor tried several different treatments to no avail. As Naomi’s ligaments were too weak to reconstruct, she had surgery to repair her knees using donated tissue. Now, 17, Naomi has a new lease on life and is back to playing ball through the generosity of two tissue donors.

Colin Lepley
Colin Lepley has played competitive sports since he was four years old. Based on his excellent playing during his junior year of high school, his football coaches believed he would beat all records the next year. But, while playing baseball, he injured his knee sliding into second base and needed an allograft tissue transplant to repair it. Colin was devastated, but knew he needed the transplant if he was to have any hope of playing sports again. His surgery was January 24, 2013. Colin now plans on being a donor, which is something he had never considered. Inspired by his donor’s gift, Colin plans to go into the physical therapy field so that he can help others to heal. Colin has expressed his deep gratitude to Dorothy Beckman, the mother of his donor, Mike Erickson, who is being honored with a floragraph on the 2015 Donate Life Float.

Jimmy Lynch
Jimmy Lynch was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1979, at age 16. For many years he struggled to control his blood sugar, but finally went on dialysis in February 2002. Needing a double-organ transplant, Jimmy went to the top of the kidney-pancreas waiting list and was transplanted on June 30, 2002. He resolved to thank his donor family, the Janohoskys, whose son Allen had been Jimmy’s kidney and pancreas donor. The families met at the 2004 Transplant Games and immediately bonded. On New Year’s Day, Jimmy will ride near Allen’s floragraph as part of “The Never-Ending Story.”

Kelvin Martin
In 2005, at age 25, Kelvin Martin was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After prolonged treatment, he had his first heart attack in 2009. Kelvin graduated from college in 2010 with a BA in criminal justice and was just starting a career in law enforcement when he had a second heart attack. While undergoing a procedure to install a defibrillator and pacemaker, Kelvin had a third heart attack on the surgery table. He was kept in a medically induced coma for two weeks, during which doctors performed emergency life-saving surgery and on July 12, 2011, inserted an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) to take over his heart function while waiting for his transplant. On January 18, 2014, Kelvin, now 35, received his new heart.

Courtney Nichols
In 1994, 14-year-old Courtney Nichols was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF); she was given seven years to live. “My life as I knew it was over,” said Courtney. “Suddenly I was taking medicine, undergoing breathing treatments and chest therapy, and had many doctor visits and hospitalizations.” Courtney’s health continued to deteriorate, and on August 15, 2011, she received a double-lung transplant. “It was like breathing a breath of fresh air all the time.” Before, she was unable to walk a few feet. Since the transplant, she has run a 5K twice. Courtney knew that someone had to pass away in order for her to live, but she came to terms with this, realizing that it was his wish to help others have a longer life than he had. In 2013, Courtney and her husband met the family of her 19-year-old donor, Matthew. The two families now have a very close relationship.

Gaetano “Gates” Orlando
Gaetano “Gates” Orlando, 52, is a retired NHL hockey player and hockey coach and now a talent scout for the New Jersey Devils. He played professionally for the Buffalo Sabres and the Milano (Italy) Devils. In 2011, Gates was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, a rare form of heart failure. Although he was able to manage his symptoms with medication and medical devices for a time, the disease progressed and he needed a heart transplant.On February 4, 2013, Gates received a new heart from Paul M. Guyette, 42, an electrician with two children, who loved sports and was a devoted Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres fan. Paul’s family thinks his heart’s destination seems meant to be. Gates and Paul’s wife Mary, tell their stories together often.

Shirley Pincus
Shirley Pincus contracted polio at the age of three, which left her with partial paralysis and atrophied muscles on her lower left leg and foot. Determined that the effects of polio would not define her, Shirley did everything other people did, including hiking and snowshoeing. Shirley also enjoyed a 30-year career in human resources for an automotive training company. About five years ago at age 58, Shirley began to experience debilitating foot and leg pain. On December 13, 2013, she had surgery to remove damaged nerve tissue from her leg and replace it with a graft of decellularized human nerve tissue that would allow the nerve to regenerate and properly send signals. The throbbing pain that had plagued her for so long was gone, thanks to a generous donor.

Jackie Pische
Jackie Pische knew that her son, Joshua Richards, had signed up to be an organ and tissue donor when he received his driver’s license at age 16. On December 8, 2013, 25-year-old Josh was fatally shot in the head. Seven people received Josh’s organs, and many more received his tissue. Only five days before Josh died, Jackie had had spinal surgery to ease her chronic back pain. Unfortunately, her first procedure did not alleviate her symptoms and she needed a second surgery, which required tissue from a donor. Jackie inquired whether Josh’s tissue could be used and since her surgery on August 27, 2014, Josh’s giving spirit and tissue have helped to heal his mother’s pain.

Gabby Preap
In May 2008, 18-year-old Gabby Preap was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a deadly heart condition. She was dying of heart failure anda transplant was her only hope.On April 20, 2011, Gabby’s life was saved by a 19-year-old donor, Cassie Campbell. “The energy I had was at least twenty-fold what it had been compared to when I was ill,” said Gabby. Several months later, Gabby and her family met Cassie’s family, which was documented by the Oprah Winfrey Network. Both women will be honored on the Donate Life float, as Gabby rides beneath Cassie’s floragraph.

Julia Rejer
As a young wife enjoying an exciting life with two toddlers, Julia Rejer began losing weight and was not feeling well. She was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a disease of the bile ducts. In the face of an illness that could likely kill her in 10 years without a transplant, she decided to do her best to manage her condition. But she became sicker and in 1996, she was waitlisted for a liver transplant. On January 10, 1997, a year later, she received a new liver. Years passed, and Julia’s PSC returned; she became gravely ill. Once again, she was listed for a liver and a kidney transplant. Julia was blessed with the precious gift of organ donation on February 28, 2008. Although Julia’s illness has been devastating, she also feels that she has been extraordinarily lucky – because two people each made a choice one day to save lives. Now 59, Julia is a dedicated volunteer with the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization.

Mary Louise Smith
On May 12, 2011, Eric Smith, 23, graduated from Temple University. Exactly one month later, on June 12, he was in a fatal auto accident. On the way to the hospital, his mother, Mary Louise Smith, saw the Gift of Life building. “That’s when I knew,” she said. “We wanted to honor Eric’s wishes and give others the chance that Eric was not able to have.” As a result, many people were given a second chance at life: The 26-year-old man who received Eric’s heart was thrilled to meet his second daughter. A 54-year-old-man received Eric’s liver. Two people regained their sight with Eric’s corneas. The Smiths met the 37-year-old woman who received Eric’s left kidney and pancreas, and the man who received Eric’s right kidney. She noted that “When meeting the organ recipients, their gratitude entered the room before they did – it was huge.”

Adam J. Teller
For the past 11 years, Adam Teller has been a tireless advocate and spokesperson for organ and tissue donation via his positions at OneLegacy, first as a procurement transplant coordinator, now as a donation development clinical specialist. Prior to joining OneLegacy, Adam worked as a certified emergency medical technician for many years. One day, while playing with his three-year-old son on his shoulders, they both fell. While his son was fine, Adam fractured a vertebra and lost the use of his left arm. On August 1, 2009, Adam had surgery to replace several discs with donor bone allograft. As a result, he now enjoys full function in his arm, and is able to continue the work he enjoys so much.

Linda M. Weaver
In 1974, at age 17, Linda Weaver was diagnosed with Bartter syndrome, a rare kidney disease. In her early 50s, her creatinine levels started to rise. Linda needed a kidney transplant and was put on the transplant waiting list. In the meantime, she was told to prepare for dialysis, which she did not want to accept. Instead, she emailed her friends stating that if anyone had a kidney to spare, she would gladly accept it. Her good friend, Frances Griffith, was a perfect match. On August 9, 2014, Linda and Frances celebrated the third anniversary of their kidney donation and transplant. Last year, they helped to decorate the 2014 Donate Life Rose Parade float. This year they will be honored on the 2015 Donate Life float as a rider and a walker.