I feel so honored to have been chosen by Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network to be a float rider on the Donate Life Float in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade. I rode on the float to honor my son, Jeff Meyer, who became an organ/tissue donor when he passed away 10/23/01, his recipients, and my husband, Jim Tilton, who received his new healthy kidney 3/18/89. We put a rose on the float to honor Jeff, as well as one for a friend for her precious little granddaughter who passed away at 11 months old waiting for a transplant that never came in time to save her little life. Our family, volunteers and friends were as excited as me knowing I would be on the float.
We had a busy 4 days in Pasadena, CA, as we were involved in many Donate Life Float activities, parties and the Rose Bowl Game. It was so wonderful to meet the other float riders and floral graph families. It was so awesome to get to help decorate the float and see it become such a beautiful float. Seeing all the amazing floragraphs on the float honoring donors was touching. As the float rolled out of the hanger and seeing the kites being brought up along with the floragraphs, was like seeing it come to life and represent life. Then all of us riders climbed onto our seats for float judging with photos in our hands of our donor loved one or their donor who gave me a new chance at life. And as the float judges walked around our float and talking to riders you could see the tears in their eyes too.
The excitement started New Years Day at 7:40 AM as we climbed on the “Seize the Day” Donate Life Float. The float won the Theme Trophy in the parade judging. As the parade started it was just so awesome to see how excited people became as our float approached them. All along the parade route it was awesome seeing people react as they’d realize what the float represented. Many stood, clapped, threw kisses, showed hugs, or had tears in their eyes. It was great to be able to interact with the crowd while on the float as we rode the 5 mile parade route. Most floats represent a company or city, but the Donate Life float represents life, memories, love, caring, giving and hope. You could just see this float had true meaning to those watching the parade.
Towards the end of the parade, as we were stopped, a couple of teenage girls were just smiling and waving to us, so I motioned for them to come over to the float. I gave them a “Seize the Day” lapel pin and it brought such smiles to their faces as they put them on their jacket. I took their picture as we pulled away. It was neat to see how excited they were, and it made them feel more part of the float.
The two plus hours we were on the parade route went so fast, but I came away from it so blessed. The Donate Life float had a meaning that touched people’s hearts and made them see how organ donation touched our lives. The Donate Life Float not only shows awareness of the importance of being an organ/tissue/eye donor, but touches the hearts of those who see the float’s true meaning of giving love, hope and life to others.
I had the most amazing 4 days of my life that I will never forget. I was so blessed to be part of this wonderful float and parade.
Delora “Dee” Tilton