2017 Donate Life Rose Parade Float
On Monday, January 2, 2017, Donate Life California joined with organ, eye and tissue donors around the country in celebrating the 2017 Donate Life Rose Parade float, Teammates in Life, as it traveled down Colorado Boulevard as part of the 128th Tournament of Roses Parade.
The stunning float depicted a spectacular Polynesian catamaran propelled by 24 organ, eye and tissue transplant recipients rowing in unison with strength gained from their donors. The vessel’s sails featured 60 floral portraits (floragraphs) of organ, eye and tissue donors interwoven with Polynesian designs and patterns. Just as the donors’ gifts empower the lives of others, the sails help power the catamaran on its journey. Twelve living kidney donors and recipients, participants in a kidney chain, walked alongside the float. The float’s ocean waves featured 1,000 white Akito roses, individually dedicated in memory of specific donors.
Donate Life California was proud to sponsor a floragraph honoring donor, Ishmiel Ward.
Ish, as his family calls him, is remembered as a gentle giant with big, bright eyes and a most beautiful smile. His sister describes him as sweet, loving and always there when she needed him. Despite a rough childhood, Ish did well in school, was involved in church, and aspired to join the military. Tragically, in June 2011, Ish’s life was cut short. When approached about organ, eye and tissue donation, Ish’s family thought of his generous spirit and big heart and knew he would say yes. His organs saved three lives, including his great aunt’s in a directed donation, and his tissue healed countless others.
Ish’s aunt, Shirley Howell, works for the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) where customers have the opportunity to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. As a manager, she talks about her nephew and her family’s experience during the donation process to educate her employees so they can educate and inspire the community.
“We are a big, close family and we all saw organ and tissue donation as a way for him and us to pay it forward,” says Shirley. “The pain of losing Ish will never go away. But, his last act as a donor is a comfort because we know he lives on in others.” Read Ishmiel’s full story here.
As is tradition, the families and loved ones of the Donate Life float floragraph honorees, such as Ish’s family, are invited to attend several events leading up to the Tournament of Roses Parade. One of those events was the Floragraph Family Brunch during which donor families are honored and thanked for their loved ones’ gifts. At the conclusion of the program, each family participated in an inspiring sand ceremony in which, one by one, each donor family poured vibrant colored sand from a small vial into a large glass vase, symbolizing each donor who gave the gift of life.
On the morning of the parade, the Donate Life float was greeted by loud cheers and applause as it made its way down the parade route and stopped directly in front of the Donate Life grandstand. The riders, walkers and Donate Life community knew this was a joyous moment in time when the world would see the community celebrate together the “gift of life” that comes through organ, eye and tissue donation.
For additional information about the Donate Life float, its sponsors, how to volunteer to help decorate and more, click here.
2016 Donate Life Rose Parade Float
Michael Robles, Donate Life California Floragraph Honoree
Michael Robles was a family man known for his yard work, the flower arrangements he bought at the local flower shop (the florists knew him by name), and for being one of the first in the small town of Delano, north of Bakersfield, to own a Harley Davidson Motorcycle. His passing of a sudden heart attack at the age of 53 left a void in his close, loving family. But, despite their grief, they didn’t hesitate to say “YES!” when asked about organ donation. Michael’s wife, Linda, turned to his brother and sister to help her decide, and they all knew what his answer would be. “Mike would definitely do this,” they said. Read Michael’s full story here.
Lorena Rodriguez, Living Donation California Float Walker
It started at work where, after nearly two decades of working with patients in kidney failure, Lorena Rodriquez of San Diego decided she could do more and became determined to someone off of dialysis and back to their family to live a better life. When Lorena was cleared for surgery, she learned her kidney donation would be part of a chain in which three people would get transplants. Shortly after their surgeries, Lorena met her recipient – a single mother who is now free from dialysis and can focus on taking care of her little girl. “If I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change one single thing, because I had such a wonderful journey.” Read Lorena’s full story here.
Edward “Lalo” Alcantar, Donate Life California Floragraph Honoree
Edward “Lalo” Alcantar of Porterville, Calif. was a smart, young 15-year-old with many talents, including playing soccer and the violin. In 2010, after a school swimming class, Lalo felt pain in his chest and legs; he passed away the next morning. His mother, Lydia, recalled that Lalo had told her he wanted to be a donor if anything happened. “What do I need my eyes for?” he asked. So, amidst her grief, she honored her son’s wishes and gave her consent to donation. Lalo’s gifts of cornea and tissue have healed and enhanced many lives. “Lalo’s life may seem too short by many,” Lydia asserted. “But those who were touched by him understand that the quality of existence far exceeds the quantity of time in which you live it.” Read Lalo’s full story here.
After graduating from Alta Loma High School and attending Citrus College, Joshua San Pedro worked as an EMT while attending paramedic school. While in high school, Josh suffered a football injury and underwent three operations, including one in which he received a kneecap replacement from an allograft. As a result he wanted to help others as he had been helped by registering as a donor. Upon his sudden death at the age of 22, Josh’s decision to donate was honored when he gave tissue to help cancer survivors and a child with a cleft palate, among others. Josh was a loving and caring person, qualities he shared as a donor. Read Josh’s full story here.
California State Senator Sharon Runner spent her life in service to others, from founding a private school to serving in the state legislature. At 30, Sharon was diagnosed with scleroderma; by 2006, she had lost nearly 60 percent of her lung capacity and within five years would need a lung transplant. Thanks to an organ donation from a 36-year-old woman, Sharon returned to work in the Senate. Before passing away in 2016, Senator Runner served on the Sierra Donor Services Advisory Board and the Legislative committee for the Scleroderma Foundation. “I am grateful daily to God, family, friends and especially to my donor for the life I now lead.” she stated. Read Sharon’s full story here.
Always with a story to tell and a warm loving hug to give, David Horacio Rodriguez was a dependable son, loyal brother, and loving uncle and friend. In March 2011, David was struck by a car as he crossed the street; he died the following day. “Although my family and I are filled with sadness, we are comforted by the fact that David had chosen to be an organ donor,” said his sister Margarita. It is the sincerest hope of his parents, thirteen siblings and 28 nieces and nephews that other individuals and families can experience the bittersweet comfort that comes from donation after such a loss. Read David’s full story here.
On October 24, 2010, Kimberley Rochelle Williams-Ibarra suffered a blood clot in her lungs, which took her life. Kimberley had expressed to her family her wishes to be an organ and tissue donor for many years. As the Manager of the Walnut Creek Department of Motor Vehicles field office, Kimberley had the opportunity to see firsthand how the partnership between the DMV and Donate Life California had made a difference in thousands of lives. Kimberley’s decision to be an organ and tissue donor was honored. “Kimberley believed in helping others,” said Rae Williams, Kimberley’s mother. “Being a donor in Kimberley’s eyes was an honor. She was truly someone special.” Read Kimberley’s full story here.
Rose Anna Friguglietti died in 1988 in a car accident at the age of 20. She had just begun her third year of college. She loved all children and planned to become a teacher so she could surround herself with their energy. She and her fiancé were excitedly planning their wedding the following Spring. It is a great comfort to her loved ones to know that two people were able to see the beautiful world she left behind through her cornea donations. Read Rose Anna’s full story here.
In the summer of 2006, Lili Ibanez’s doctors diagnosed telltale signs of kidney failure. With time running out before she would need to begin dialysis, she tearfully agreed to her 17-year-old son Anthony’s desire to be a donor. He was a perfect match. Since the December 2008 transplant, Lili resumed full-time work at the California DMV and Anthony finished another semester of college while enjoying an active life of sports and work. Said Lili, “How could I have known that the dream of having a son would lead me to depend on him to save my life?” Read Lili’s full story here.
Progressive kidney disease forced Gaston Gonzales to undergo dialysis and join the organ transplant waiting list, with the expectation of a seven-year wait. Two years later, Hooshang Torabi, a fellow California DMV employee whose wife had received a kidney transplant, generously offered to be his living donor. In August of 2007, Gaston and Hooshang walked out of UCLA Medical Center as a new family. Read Gaston’s full story here.
Upon turning 18, Hooshang Torabi’s daughter Saba chose to be a living kidney donor to her mother. When Hooshang heard about a fellow DMV employee who was in need of a kidney, he empathized with the situation and offered to be his living kidney donor. An Iranian-born Muslim, Hooshang showed that compassion crosses all lines as he saved the life of a Cuban-born Catholic man. Read Hooshang’s full story here.
For years, Jan Barney wore contact lenses that ultimately scratched his eyes severely. Cornea transplants kept him from blindness and gave him back his sight, which was essential for Jan’s work with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Read Jan’s full story here.
Tom Berryhill’s work as a farmer and elected public servant would have ended without a heart transplant. Today, he serves diligently in the California State Assembly on behalf of his constituents. He recently co-authored the state’s revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) bill and is the only elected official in the U.S. who is a heart transplant recipient.
Brenda O’Donnell was proud to donate the organs and tissues of her father Lonnie Johnson in April 2002. A longtime employee of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Brenda guided the project enabling state residents to sign up as organ and tissue donors through the DMV. Says Brenda, “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that a part of my father lives on in other people.” Read Brenda’s full story here.