Lefferts Family Will Ride Rose Parade Float

July 9, 2012

The Lefferts Family

Vivian and Larry Lefferts will represent Gift of Hope at the 2013 Donate Life Rose Parade festivities in Pasadena. Vivian will have the pleasure and privilege of riding on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float on New Year’s Day. Residents of Normal and long-time Gift of Hope volunteers and members of the organization’s Donor Family Advisory Council and Workplace Partners Advisory Council, the Lefferts will honor the legacy of their son, John, a cornea, bone and tissue donor whose gifts have touched the lives of more than 30 people since his death from an aortic aneurysm in 2004.

“The Lefferts’ selection as our representatives at the 2013 Donate Life Rose Parade festivities couldn’t be more fitting, especially considering the theme of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float— Journeys of the Heart,” said Jerry Anderson, President/CEO of Gift of Hope. “They truly personify that theme because the tragic loss of their beloved son led them on a new journey to continue John’s legacy through the gifts he offered through his tissue donation.”

The Lefferts began that journey by reaching out to Gift of Hope to support its mission through efforts such as spearheading grassroots letter-writing campaigns to support the law that created the Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry in 2006. In the years since then, the Lefferts have continued to help save and enhance countless lives through their efforts as Gift of Hope volunteers and members of the organization’s Donor Family Advisory Council.

“Vivian and Larry honor their son’s legacy by volunteering with Gift of Hope to share their donation story whenever they can at programs throughout the state,” Anderson said. “This tireless husband-and-wife team speaks at businesses, hospitals, special events, high schools and colleges and to anyone else willing to hear about how important organ and tissue donation is to both their family and the thousands of people waiting for lifesaving and life-enhancing transplants.”

The Lefferts are one of the most sought-after public speakers in Gift of Hope’s service area, added David Bosch, Gift of Hope’s Director of Communications. “They captivate their audiences with their donation story while educating audience members about the importance of organ and tissue donation and how registering to be a donor can save and enhance lives,” he said.

The Lefferts even use their business as an opportunity to promote organ and tissue donation. As owners of a fireworks company, they often showcase the Donate Life logo and the important donation message through their pyrotechnic displays.

“These efforts are subtle, yet extremely hard-hitting,” Anderson said. “With little fanfare, the Lefferts have encouraged thousands of people to join the state donor registry. They have not only fully embraced our mission and cause, but they continue to represent the generous and hopeful spirit of all donor families. We are proud to have them as our representatives at the 2013 Donate Life Rose Parade festivities.”


Facebook and Donate Life America Partner to Save Lives

May 1, 2012

Today is a big day for advocates of organ and tissue donation! In case you haven’t heard – or noticed yet – Facebook has integrated one’s organ and tissue donation status into its timeline format. This means that millions of Americans will be exposed to the lifesaving nature of organ and tissue donation. It also links registered organ and tissue donors with each other to form a community of donation advocates who have decided to make a difference in the lives of others by taking just 30 seconds to register.

To make things even better, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear on ABC’s Good Morning America Tuesday morning to promote the new timeline feature and encourage Americans to register as organ and tissue donors. ABC will follow up Zuckerberg’s interview by featuring donation stories on World News Tonight, Nightline and Live! with Kelly Ripa. ESPN (which is owned by ABC) also will feature stories that promote organ and tissue donation throughout the day.

In a press release from Donate Life America, President and CEO David Fleming states, “We can’t thank Facebook enough for the organization’s commitment to helping save lives by encouraging Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. We are also grateful to ABC and ESPN for their dedication to this cause and for sharing this opportunity with their viewers. Thousands of lives will be saved or healed as a result of this initiative. We encourage all Facebook users to take a moment and update their Facebook profiles, register to be donors and share their decisions with family and friends. It is a simple way to provide hope for those in need.”

The partnership signifies a giant step for the organ, eye and tissue donation community, bringing major exposure to the need for more registered donors and leading people to publicly identify themselves as donors. This, undoubtedly, will provide hope to the more than 114,000 men, women and children currently waiting for lifesaving transplants.

Be a part of the national community of registered organ and tissue donors by taking just 30 seconds to register at GiftofHope.org. Once you’ve registered, take a moment or two and share this decision with others by updating your Facebook profile!

How to add organ donor status to your Facebook Timeline by the Mayo Clinic:

Josh Muller, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network

Dick Cheney Gets a Heart

March 27, 2012

Depending on your political affiliation, you may view the title of this post as ironic, disturbing or a reason to celebrate. If you check Twitter, you’ll see a plethora of tweets about the former vice president’s transplant. Many of these are jokes, and a few express disgust by people who say that they’ll remove their names from their state’s donor registry because Cheney is “heartless” or that his status or power manipulated the organ allocation system.

It’s truly unfortunate that people feel this way. The fact of the matter is there’s a grieving family somewhere who said “yes” to organ and tissue donation. When that family decided their loved one could help others through donation, they knew their loved one could help ANYONE in need.

Organ and tissue donation is a final gift from one person to another. This gift does not take wealth, status, race, gender, or any social or physical attribute into consideration other than one’s desperate need for a lifesaving transplant. Cheney waited more than 20 months for his gift of life. This is more than twice the average wait time of nine months for individuals waiting for heart transplants in Virginia (where Cheney received his transplant). This shows that Cheney’s social status had no impact on his wait time or his position on the national organ transplant waiting list. Rather, his position on the waiting list was determined by medical urgency (his level of illness), blood type, length of time waiting for a transplant, body size and location of his donor in relation to his transplant hospital. The same criteria used for everyone on the list.

This leads us to the real issue: There is a dramatic shortage of registered organ and tissue donors in the United States. A wait time of 20 months, or even nine months, is far too long for many people waiting for the gift of life. Unfortunately, many potential recipients—more than 300 of whom are waiting for hearts—are unable to survive this wait and die before a lifesaving organ becomes available. If more people simply said “yes” to donation, then fewer people like Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lacy J. Banks or Justin Sipe, a 23-year-old college student from South Carolina, would die waiting.

Before you take your name off of your state’s donor registry or spread falsehoods about organ/tissue donation, please consider that these actions will only lengthen the wait for the more than 113,000 Americans in need of lifesaving organ transplants. Please take a few moments to learn more about organ/tissue donation before rushing to judgement and taking any actions.

You can find an abundance of information about organ/tissue donation at GiftofHope.org (or DonateLifeAmerica.net if outside of Illinois).

-Josh Muller, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator, Gift of Hope

Donate Life Illinois Featured in “I Am Hope” Campaign

February 24, 2012

Next week, Donate Life Illinois will be featured in the national “I Am Hope” campaign. The “I Am Hope” initiative is part of Donate Life America’s “20 Million in 2012” campaign focused on registering 20 million Americans as organ and tissue donors in 2012.  Each state (plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico) has been assigned a week of the year to feature seven local inspiring stories, one for each day of the week.

“I Am Hope” Video from Donate Life America

From Sunday February 26 to Saturday March 3, Donate Life America will feature stories from Illinois. We will be sharing stories of donation experiences from Illinois with Donate Life America and its Donate Life partners throughout the country.

Check the Donate Life Illinois Facebook Fan Page to view our “I Am Hope” stories next week!

Illinois Partners with Donate Life America to Register 20 Million in 2012

January 11, 2012

We need your help to register 20 million Americans as organ and tissue donors in 2012!

Jessica Melore celebrated her 30th birthday on January 4, a milestone she wasn’t sure she’d live to experience. At 16, Jessica received a lifesaving heart transplant. Her story of hope and survival helps to launch Donate Life America’s bold new initiative: “20 Million in 2012.

Donate Life America — the national organization promoting organ, eye and tissue donation in the United States – designed its “20 Million in 2012” initiative to focus on dramatically increasing the number of people registered in state donor registries. This official launch of the campaign comes on the heels of DLA’s announcement during the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena  where it has sponsored the Donate Life float each year since 2004. This year’s float again featured inspirational stories of organ donors and their families, a tradition that the “20 Million in 2012” campaign will continue as it features powerful stories of people affected by organ, eye and tissue donation.

“I am so proud to be a part of the campaign’s “I am HOPE” storytelling project,” says Melore. “Real-life stories like mine often inspire people to sign up to be organ, eye and tissue donors.”

By registering your decision to be an organ and tissue donor, you can give hope to more than 112,000 Americans—more than 5,000 Illinoisans—waiting for lifesaving transplants. “We are committed to saving and enhancing as many lives as possible through organ and tissue donation,” says David Bosch, Director of Communications for Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, which coordinates organ and tissue donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana. “Nearly 6 million Illinois residents have registered their decisions to save and enhance lives through organ and tissue donation. In 2012, we hope to inspire and motivate thousands more to make this ordinary decision that can produce extraordinary results.”

Gift of Hope and other Donate Life Illinois coalition members will support the “20 Million in 2012” campaign’s four featured national events:

  • The Donate Life Flash Mob on March 24
  • Donate Life Blue and Green Virtual Fashion Show on April 20
  • Donate Life Champions in Fall 2012
  • Donate Life Linking Hands for Life being held all year long

For more information about the “20 Million in 2012” campaign, visit DonateLifeAmerica.org. To register your decision to be an organ and tissue donor in Illinois, visit DonateLifeIllinois.org.

Donate Life Rose Parade Wrap-Up

January 5, 2012

Last week was an amazing time for organ and tissue donation advocates across the country and throughout the world.  Donate Life organizations partnered to build and enter the “One More Day” Donate Life Float in the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade.  The float generated hundreds of donation related stories in the media and showed the estimated 70 million people watching the Rose Parade that organ and tissue donation saves lives.


This year’s Rose Parade was an especially significant event for organ and tissue donation advocates here in Illinois.  The Donate Life Float featured two riders who call the great state of Illinois home. Alex Rodriguez, of Cicero, was sponsored by Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network riding in honor of his brother Francisco “Paco” Rodriguez.  The second rider, Linda Henning, resides in Crossville and was sponsored by Donor Alliance of Denver, Colorado.  Linda rode in honor of her son, Marc, a former cadet in the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Alex Rodriguez and Linda Henning in front of the Donate Life Float

Both Alex and Linda spent their time in Pasadena building awareness for organ and tissue donation and networking with donor families and recipients from across the United States.  It was truly an amazing time to honor loved ones, make life-long connections, and celebrate the “Gift of Life” that is organ and tissue donation.

Alex Rodriguez sitting next to Paco's heart recipient, Alexis Sloan, on the Donate Life Float

If you would like to learn more about the Donate Life Float and the Rose Parade, check out the links to news stories and resources at the bottom of this post.  To see more pictures of our Illinois float riders, visit the Donate Life Illinois Facebook Page or go to the Donate Life Float Media Center.

National Media Surrounding the Donate Life Float

ESPN.com – The parade of life

CNN.com – Two families bond after child’s death saves another

Regional Coverage of Illinois riders and honorees

Fox Chicago News –Friends and Family Honor Boxer Paco Rodriguez

ABC Chicago – Late Chicago boxer to be honored at Rose Parade

Univision Chicago – Niño Azteka será honrado en Los Ángeles

Telemundo Chicago – Murió en el cuadrilátero, pero sigue viviendo

The Denver Post – Organ donors’ families celebrate gift of life at Calif. Event

Carmi Times – Phillipstown represented in Rose Parade

More Resources

Visit the Donate Life Facebook Page for photos of the Illinois riders and honorees.

Go to DonateLifeFloat.org for more information on the Donate Life Float.

Register your decision to save lives through organ and tissue donation at DonateLifeIllinois.org!

2012 Donate Life Rose Parade Float

December 23, 2011

It’s that time of year when Donate Life America partners with the Rose Parade to build organ and tissue donation awareness across the United States. Each year since 2004, Donate Life has entered a float in the Rose Parade which takes place annually on (or near) New Year’s Day in Pasadena. The partnership with the Rose Parade has inspired countless Americans to register their decisions to save lives through organ and tissue donation.

Rendering of 2012 Donate Life Float

This year, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network is honoring Francisco “Paco” Rodriguez by sending his family to Pasadena to participate in Donate Life Float activities from December 28th until January 2nd. Paco’s family will help decorate the Donate Life Float, network with donor families and recipients, and spread organ and tissue donation awareness. Alex Rodriguez, Paco’s brother, will even ride on the Donate Life Float during the Rose Parade!

Sonia, wife, and Ginette, daughter, put the finishing touches on Paco's floragraph.

From December 28th until January 2nd, the Donate Life Illinois team will be in Pasadena with the Rodriguez family sharing photos and updates on Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag #DonateLifeFloat on Twitter to see updates from Donate Life Illinois and, possibly, other Donate Life organizations.

Happy Holidays!

– Josh

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