Illinois Float Rider – Rose Parade Slideshow Recap

January 21, 2010

Earlier this week, our 2010 Illinois Rose Parade Float Rider, Anne Gulotta, sent me a link to a nice photo slideshow that she put together documenting her trip to Pasadena. Anne’s son, J.R., created the song “Thank You” that accompanies the photos.

Enjoy and thanks Anne!


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3… 2…1…

December 31, 2009

From all of us at Donate Life Illinois:

Wishing everyone a safe night and a great year ahead in 2010!

Also, don’t forget to watch the Rose Parade tomorrow as the Donate Life float will be appearing early in the lineup. In the meantime, check out this article in the Barrington Courier-Review about our float rider, Anne Gulotta and this article in the Mattoon Journal-Gazette about floragraph honoree, Cameron Chana.

Cheers everyone!

Happy New Year!

The Donate Life Rose Parade Float – Who Makes It Happen

December 22, 2009

Another great update and insight from Illinois’ Donate Life Rose Parade float rider Anne Gulotta as she discusses the people who put in the long hours to make the float shine in the national spotlight. In addition, be sure to check out this great post from Steve over at Revive Hope about the tribute song that Anne’s son created for his dad.

T-minus 9 days!


Anne Gulotta

On Saturday December 12th, a great event happened at the National Kidney Foundation in Chicago.  Two families came together to decorate their loved one’s floragraphs and to honor them for the gift of life they gave to others.

These floragraphs of Jay and Cameron will be placed on the 2010 Donate Life float. 76 floragraphs will rise from the ashes bringing hope to others.  I plan to write about “A day in the life of a float rider ” while I’m in Pasadena.  Today, I thought I would share some interesting details about the float.   If you haven’t already please visit  It’s a beautifully illustrated website with photos and information about the event.

Soon, I will embark on a “ride of a lifetime.”  I’m reviewing the agenda that Donate Life puts together for each float rider, and I’m realizing that I will be busier than I thought.  Donate Life and OneLegacy teams have been working for a year to put this event together.  They call themselves Team Donate Life.  There’s an Organization Committee, too.  Steve Ferkau‘s a part of the Organization Committee.  All these folks work together throughout the year to make one thing happen:  An amazing Donate Life Float that will put our issue in front on a national stage for millions to see.

This Year’s theme, New Life Rises, is inspired by the Tournament of Rose parade theme “A Cut Above”, and the Master of Ceremonies this is year is Chelsey “Sully Sullenburger” who safely brought the plane down in the Hudson River and saved 155 lives.  New Life Rises should be the 10th float in line this year, and the Phoenix rising from the ashes 29 feet into the air could not have been a better theme for 2010! The parade commences at 10am CDT.

We are honoring donors who’ve given the gift of life to others, and Jay and Cameron will be two of them. I encourage you to read about the other float riders and floragraphs. I printed them out yesterday, and my goal is to memorize who the float riders are before I arrive in Pasadena. Their  stories are amazing.

Lately, I’ve received emails about different news stories that are being told around the country about the float riders and floragraphs.  Thousands of volunteer workers and countless hours will go into the float decorating before the Parade. A few weeks ago I got a call from Bryan Stewart who is the Wizard of OZ for coordinating the Donate Life float.  He oversees everything that is going on in Pasadena, and I think when I arrive in Pasadena it’s going to be like Dorothy opening the door to the Land of OZ.

Bryan was standing in front of Jay’s floragraph a few weeks ago, and he called me. I got to speak to the two artists that decorated Jay’s floragraph. Jerry and Barbara traveled to the Rosemount Pavilion where hundreds of other volunteer artists met to decorate floragraphs.  Barbara told me of her daughter-in-law that is alive today because of a kidney transplant. She wanted to “give back”, and the story of Jay inspired her to decorate. I have a photo of Barbara and Jerry holding Jay’s floragraph, and I can’t wait to meet them in Pasadena.

I’ve written about the Family Circle Rose Dedication. There will ceremonies to give families and friends a chance to place roses, and there will be thousands of them. Alex O’loughlin, the star of the TV show Three Rivers, recently dedicated a rose  in honor of Fernanado, whose family consented to eye donation through San Antonio Eye Bank because they were fans of the CBS show. Fernando wanted to help people like those on the show.  Alex wrote:

“Fernando’s legacy lives on through his family, friends, and those whose sight he restored through cornea donation.  I will always be inspired by Fernando’s generosity.  Sincerely,  Alex O’Loughlin.”

You still have time to dedicate to the Family Circle Rose Dedication.  The biggest event before the parade will be the float judging that takes place on the afternoon of December 31st. Float decorating will cease, and all float riders will assemble for a dress rehearsal.  The music will play, all float riders will be seated, and the judging will commence. I’ve been told that between the tears and hugs a loud roar and clapping will commence at the end of judging. I have no doubt that the Donate Life Float is one of, if not the most spectacular float with a story and a message like no other.

~ Anne

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The Circle of Life

December 17, 2009

Continuing with our 2009 Donate Life Rose Parade float series, I asked Anne to do a post about meeting one of her husband’s recipients.


Anne Gulotta

The moments that lead up to organ donation/transplantation can be riveting. TV series are written about it.  But, living it is a surreal experience. Imagine if you will for a moment this scenerio:

In a small town called Havana, IL a woman waits patiently by her telephone for a phone call that will change her life. She’s in need of a kidney transplant, and she’s been called before but to no avail. Her eyes swell with tears thinking she may  never get a call, and a compatible donor will never be found.

A few hundred miles north in Barrington, IL a family experiences a terrible tragedy. A man is rushed to the hospital, and the family is told the damage to his brain is irreversible, and that he is going to die.

The family in Barrington consent to organ donation, and spend the next 24 hours with their loved one until they are told at 10pm  that he is brain dead. In the middle of the night the phone rings and the lady in Havana, IL thinks it’s a prank call. The call wouldn’t go through so she hung up. Then, it rang again and the voice said we have a donor for you! As one family grieves over the loss of their loved one, another family rejoices. In fact, it’s the wedding anniversary of the couple in Havana, IL, and the woman tells her husband he need not buy her an anniversary present. Nothing he could buy her would top this.

The events above happened to me and my family.

My husband Jay died on may 8th, 2002. A few months after his death I received information from Gift Of Hope about the recipients of Jay’s organs. His heart went to a 55-year-old man, his left kidney to a 42-year-old woman, his right kidney to a 16-year-old girl, he gave someone sight, and more.

At Thanksgiving I received a thank you letter from the recipient of Jay’s left kidney. She’s the woman I describe above from Havana, IL.  Julie suffers from diabetes and would not be alive today if it weren’t for Jay’s gift of life. Julie sent flowers at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we corresponded by letter writing for one year.

On the one year anniversary of Julie’s new life, I called her. I felt like I knew her forever. Our friendship continued to grow, and in August of 2005 I met Julie, her husband Ed, and their family and friends in Havana, Il. I pulled up to the front of their house accompanied by a dear friend, a representative from Gift Of Hope, and a reporter from the Daily Herald.

Anne and Jay's recipient, Julie.

We were greeted by signs that said “Jay My Gift Of Life” and “Anne My Gift Of Hope.” My feelings were indescribable –  it’s grief and joy all mixed into one. When I saw Julie, I ran to her and I didn’t want to let go. Then I said “Where’s Jay, I want to see Jay,” and she put my hand over her scar.

I spent the weekend with Julie and her family. Everywhere we went there was a place set at the table for Jay. Since then I’ve been back to Havana, IL to plant a tree along the Illinois river in Jay’s memory. Julie and I talk all the time. I couldn’t imagine life without her now.

Our situation is atypical. The percentage of individuals that are eligible to become organ donors is 1-2 percent. The number of donor and recipients that ever meet is less, and the friendship that Julie and I have is priceless. I look at other recipients with great admiration, and I understand the grief and pain that donor families feel over the loss of a loved one.

” It’s the circle of life and it moves us all. Through despair and hope.  Through faith and love. Till we find our place. On the path unwinding. In the circle. The circle of life. “

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Donate Life Float Floragraph Decorating Recap

December 15, 2009

This past weekend, we had the honor of getting together with Anne Gulotta and the Chana family at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois to decorate the floragraphs of Jay Gulotta and Cameron Chana.

Anne and the Chana family both shared personal thoughts about what the floragraphs mean to them prior to the decorating ceremony. Below are a few photos of the event. To see more photos, hop over to this album on our DLI Facebook page.

Also, be sure to check out this great article in today’s Daily Herald about Anne’s trip to the Rose Parade!


Donate Life.

Setting up.


Anne and Jay's recipient, Julie.

Jay and Cameron's floragraphs.

Roses and Cameron's floragraph.

Anne and family.

Anne decorating Jay's floragraph.

The Chana family with Cameron's floragraph.

Decorating Cameron's floragraph.

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Rose Parade Floragraph Decorating Event

December 11, 2009

Jay Gulotta

Cameron Chana

This Saturday, we’ll be gathering at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois with Donate Life Rose Parade float rider Anne Gulotta as well as the Chana family to decorate two floragraphs that will be placed on this year’s Donate Life float.

What are the floragraphs?

The Donate Life float’s 77 floragraphs depict how ‘New Life Rises’ as deceased organ, eye and tissue donors give life, hope and health to those in need. Through these artistic portraits — most of which are decorated by their family members — we honor them, their families, and donors everywhere.

On Saturday, Anne will be decorating a floragraph in honor of her late husband Jay and the Chanas will be decorating one for their son Cameron who became a donor earlier this year (the Daily Eastern News did a nice mention of Cameron today). I’d encourage you to hop over to both of these links to read the full story behind Jay, Cameron and the other 75 inspiring donors who will be represented through floragraphs.

We’ll have plenty of photos and video from the event so stay tuned for a recap next week.


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Donate Life Rose Dedication Program

December 7, 2009

Following up on our last post from Donate Life Rose Parade float rider Anne Gulotta, we wanted to call attention to a key part of the Rose Parade float – the Family Circle Garden. Please check out information about the Rose Dedication Program below as a great way to honor a donor.


Anne Gulotta

A beautiful event will take place on New Years day on the Donate Life Float.

Twenty four float riders will gather at 5 a.m. Pacific time to take the ride of their life. Among all the fragrant and colorful flowers that cover the 55 foot long Donate Life float, a special area will be dedicated to the Family Circle Garden.  The Family Circle Rose Dedication Program offers families touched by organ and tissue donation the opportunity to honor their loved ones by dedicating a rose that is tagged with a personal message and placed in the Family Circle Garden.  The Garden is a living memorial of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float.

Families and organizations can participate.  Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. is one of many participating hospitals who will be participating. This is a special event, and there will be a ceremony in Pasadena focused on placing the roses on the float. Viewers will be fixated on the majestic Phoenix which rises 30 feet into the air. The extraordinary display of roses will also be a highlight.

As an Ambassador for Gift of Hope and Donate Life, my role is to promote organ donation. In doing so I would like to extend to you my service and offer to place a rose(s) in your honor of the person you are honoring. If you have never dedicated a rose on the float, I strongly urge you to do so. There will be over 3000 roses dedicated, and I hope to be photographing and documenting the event.  I hear it’s a tear-jerker.

It’s easy to sign up for the program. You can read dedications that have been posted.  If you have already dedicated a rose(s) let me know who you are, and I will ask permission to place the rose in your honor.

The Rose Dedication program has been a way for me and my family to honor Jay and the lives he saved.  A woman by the name of “Rose” once said; “We a make a living by what we get, We make a life by what we give.”

That’s what organ donation is all about. Giving life to others.  So, it’s important that we occasionally honor those who’ve been touched by organ and tissue donation.

~ Anne

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