2018 Float Rider Honorees
Meet the float riders touched through donation and transplantation!
Growing up in Tijuana with a humble upbringing, Adaia Sanchez, better known as Lupe, learned at a very young age how much the kindness of strangers can help save lives. Both her and her sister got very sick and thanks to the help from others, they received medical attention. This act of kindness from others inspired Lupe to persevere in life and pay it forward by helping others in need. Once in the U.S., Lupe helped tutor children in school and at her local library. After raising two children and separating from her husband, Lupe continued volunteering her time to provide medical attention to others in remote towns and countries. Ten years ago, Lupe was introduced by a friend to the OneLegacy Ambassadors program, and since then, she has dedicated numerous hours of her time to help spread the word about donation and encourage the Latino community in Los Angeles to register and donate.Amy Camacho’s positive and boundless energy is felt everywhere she goes. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, she was still able to grow up with an active lifestyle and attend college to become an educator. Since 2001, she has made a difference in her students’ lives as an elementary school teacher. In her mid-thirties, Amy’s doctor notified her that her disease had affected her kidneys and that she needed a transplant to survive. By then, she lacked the energy to stand in front of her class or do some of her favorite activities. In 2016, after nearly five years on the national transplant waitlist, Amy received a kidney and pancreas transplant. She is thrilled to teach all day and still have the energy to go to the gym. Her transplant also inspired her to become a Donate Life Ambassador with Donor Network West to share her story of donation.Orthopedic surgeon Bruce Taylor has truly experienced tissue donation full circle. Bruce is a donor father, a grateful tissue recipient and an orthopedic surgeon who helps transform the lives of recipients using donated tissue. In 1994, Bruce and his wife lost their son, who became a tissue donor. During this difficult time, it meant a lot to Bruce and his wife to have the opportunity to authorize their son’s donation and help others after his death. In 2015, Bruce received donated tissue to reconstruct a torn ligament in his knee. Prior to the surgery, Bruce’s knee was increasingly unstable, making it difficult to work and stay active. After the surgery, he was able to return to his work as an orthopedic surgeon, spend time with his family and travel.At 50 years old, Dorothy “Dot” Delarosa from San Antonio has a lot to be thankful for after receiving a second chance at life, thanks to an organ donor. Dot was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, or scarring of the lung, and relied on her oxygen tank 24/7 in order to perform simple tasks like walking, eating and bathing. Given only two-to-five years to live, her only hope was a life-saving transplant. On June 7, 2010, she received a left lung. “Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my organ donor for gifting me the most selfless gift humanly possible—my lung,” said Dot. To honor her donor’s family, Dot volunteers with several organizations in Texas, to encourage others to sign up and save lives. She is honored to be part of the 2018 Donate Life Float, and she is grateful for her donor’s gift and for the countless others who have given through donation.Dylan was a sophomore in high school when he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. Critically injured, he spent several weeks in the ICU undergoing multiple surgeries to repair injuries of his left arm and right leg. Once stabilized, however, Dylan discovered he was unable to move most of his left arm. The accident had caused significant nerve damage. Physicians believed that Dylan might never regain use of his arm, and they mentioned he might need amputation. While searching for other options, Dylan’s family found a physician who could help. In the summer of 2015, Dylan underwent surgery to repair his nerve damage, and his damaged nerve tissue was replaced with donated tissue. Thanks to a donor’s ultimate gift of tissue donation, Dylan’s nerves regenerated, restoring function and sensation to his left arm. Today Dylan has full use and sensation of both arms. He is an active 19 year old who loves to rebuild cars, helps his father run an electronics business, and is currently pursuing acting and film making classes.Hailey Steimel was born with a congenital heart defect that require her to undergo an open-heart surgery at the age of 1. Growing up, she lived a relatively normal life, much like her twin sister, Hope. That changed quickly in the fall of 2012, when Hailey and her family learned that she would eventually need a heart transplant. A year later, she was placed on the UNOS list, after being hospitalized with congestive heart failure. After receiving “the call”, on February 14 she celebrated Valentine’s Day and National Organ Donor Awareness Day by receiving a much-awaited heart from a generous donor. Because of this special gift, Hailey was able to go back to high school and graduate with her class. She is now in college and she hopes to work in a field that allows her to share her story and the importance of organ donation with others.After serving four years in the Air Force, at the age 26, Jason achieved his goal to work on the streets of Phoenix as a rookie police officer. Shortly after his first year of service, Jason's life took an unexpected, tragic turn, when a taxi cab crashed into the rear of Jason's patrol car. Upon impact, Jason's car burst into flames, trapping him inside. Through a series of miraculous and fateful circumstances, Jason survived the crash. He suffered severe burns to over 40% of his body, which drastically altered his appearance. He has undergone more than 50 surgeries just to have the ability to accomplish simple, daily tasks we often take for granted. Donated skin grafts help saved Jason’s life. Eventually, Jason had to retire from the police force. He is now a motivational speaker, sharing his inspirational story with others throughout the United States.Macy Alexander-Childs received a small intestine transplant in April 2008, just six days short of her first birthday. Macy and her family will be forever grateful for her donor, and have devoted their time since Macy was 5 years old to help raise further awareness about the need for donation across Western New York. Macy has attended many events with her mother, Tiffany, as an ambassador for Unyts, sharing their story of transplantation. In 2016, Macy attended her first Transplant Games as a member of Team Buffalo. She was the team’s youngest athlete, but one that had a big impact. At just 10 years old, Macy has been through more than most kids her age, but she has used her experiences in a positive way to make a difference in her community.Melissa Carter was unexpectedly diagnosed with kidney disease at 27 and was on dialysis by 31, having no known family history of kidney disease in her family. As a morning show personality in Atlanta, she had the ability to share her experience with her audience, encouraging them to become organ donors in the process. Her cousin, Pam Price, came to the rescue in November of 2002, giving Carter, then 32, a new chance at a healthy life with her kidney. When asked by Melissa why she did it, Pam responded, “There are few times in a person's life when you can truly make a difference." Since then, Melissa has established the Melissa Carter Transplant Fund at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, in hopes of paying for others' transplants someday, and she now has a son who has forever changed and inspired her world. Melissa's fund, show, public speaking course, and other activities can be found on her website at http://www.melissacartersays.com.Michael Strusiak received the gift of life 10 years ago, at age 50, and since then, he has continued to honor his donor, Kristen O’Hara, in every way possible. After decades of living as a Type 1 diabetic, followed by a diagnosis of renal cancer resulting in years of dialysis, Michael was blessed with a new kidney and pancreas. He continues to thrive, treasuring every day and thanking his donor and her family for making it all possible. He carries his energetic spirit wherever he goes, never missing an opportunity to promote organ donation and share his story. Michael will be forever grateful to his donor and Angel, Kristen, and the O’Hara family who made the decision to give the gift of life in their deepest hours of grief. This gift has allowed Michael to celebrate with his four daughters as they graduated college.After working as a Licensed Vocational Nurse for over 15 years and living a full life as a wife, mother and proud grandmother, Peggy’s health started to deteriorate. In June, 2013, her symptoms exacerbated and, after a series of tests, she was given 3 months to live. She had end-stage liver disease, stemming from a fatty liver. Only a liver transplant could save Peggy, and with a 2-3 year transplant wait time in California, Peggy and her husband followed their doctor’s advice to get listed for a transplant at the University of Alabama. A month later, she received the call that would save her life. Four years after her transplant, Peggy is healthy and grateful, and since March, 2014, she volunteers her time as a OneLegacy Ambassador, sharing her message of hope and inspiring others to register and donate. Peggy recently celebrated her 25th anniversary with her husband, Mike, and she continues living a full life.P.J. was diagnosed with a tumor in his tibia at just eleven years of age. A biopsy revealed that P.J. had bone cancer. He received his treatments and chemotherapy at the Cleveland Clinic where he was hospitalized until late August of 2012. He then found out that over 97% of his tumor had been eliminated by the chemo and that a new tibia was available for him, thanks to a tissue donor. Thanks to his treatment and the donated musculoskeletal tissue, P.J. is back in school and can be active in gym class and play alongside his friends again.Robert’s journey as a diabetic began in 1983, with no idea what this terrible disease would do to him. Diabetes is a disease that, over the years, affects people’s heart, eyes, kidneys, and neuropathy. Sadly, he has endured problems with all of them. After seeing his nephrologist in 2005 and learning that his kidney function was at 16 percent, Robert started hemodialysis. While on dialysis, all of Robert’s family came forward to be tested to be his potential living kidney donor. His son was a match, and he donated his kidney to Robert in 2007. It’s been 10 years since the transplant, and thanks to his son’s gift of life, Robert is loving life and going strong. He now enjoys working, volunteering, and spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren.Rodney Cline Carew was born on a train in Gatun, Panama on October 1, 1945. He moved with his family to New York when he was fourteen years old, and signed with the Minnesota Twins on the day he graduated from high school. Rod Carew is one of the most talented players to ever don a major league uniform. During his illustrious nineteen-year career, he was selected to eighteen All-Star teams. His career statistics explain why on January 8, 1991, he became only the 22nd player in history to be voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Upon retiring in 1986, Rod decided he would devote his time to working with children. He realized a life-long dream in the spring of 1987 when The Rod Carew Baseball School opened in Placentia, California. Rod spends a lot of his free time in pursuit of funds to be used in the fight to find a cure for pediatric cancers and muscular dystrophy. Today, in addition to his charitable works, Rod is still actively involved in baseball. In September 2015, Rod suffered a massive heart attack while on the golf course after his first tee shot. Rod was added to the heart transplant list and on December 16, 2016, Rod received a heart and kidney transplant. The donor was 29-year-old former NFL player Konrad Reuland, who will also be honored on our float.Sam is a former NFL Quarterback and head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Diagnosed with heart failure a few years ago, Sam was able to go on with his daily activities for a while, until his health deteriorated to the point that the only option for seeing his next birthday was a heart transplant. His chances were best described as the medical equivalent of a “Hail Mary” football pass. Sam was placed on the waiting list, and as time passed by without a good match, he was about to be sent to hospice care. However, right before he was released from the hospital, he received the news that a heart had been found. The transplant was successful and, within a couple of weeks, Sam regained his strength. He continues to show his gratitude for his donor and for the gift he has been given by participating in talks to local and national groups, as well as interviews and meetings with others in need of transplants.Tiffany Ladd, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and her mom share a special bond with one another that is a little different than other mother-daughter relationships. They talk on the phone together every single day and Tiffany refers to her mom as her ‘life coach’. They enjoy getting together over a cup of coffee, watching Tiffany’s kids’ sporting events and attending family dinners. There’s not much these two don’t do together, including sharing a kidney. Tiffany had no prior concern with her kidney function until the birth of her first child in 2005. After the birth, she learned she was in End Stage Renal Failure. She started dialysis later that year to keep her kidney’s functioning. Meanwhile, her mother began testing to determine if she could save her daughter’s life as a living kidney donor. Tiffany was thrilled and humbled by her mother’s lifesaving gift. She recognizes her mom bravely risking her life, without hesitation, to save her daughter.Yolanda Harshaw was diagnosed with pregnancy-induced cardiomyopathy in March of 2004, two months after giving birth to her first child. She battled with the disease for ten years, while seeking and continuing medical treatment that required extended hospitalization. Yolanda's condition worsened and she ended up on life support in May of 2010, after giving birth to her second child. For the next four years, Yolanda continued to endure extended hospitalization, and that she would eventually need a heart transplant. Yolanda was placed on the donor list on December 25, 2014. On December 26, Yolanda received the call that changed her life forever; they found a perfect match in less than twenty-four hours of her being listed. She shortly headed to the hospital, where she received the most amazing gift of life. The transplant was a success. Yolanda was able to meet her donor family last year and since then they have grown very close; she says it is like having a second amazing family. Both Yolanda and her donor, Melissa, will be honored on the Donate Life Float in 2018.