Rose Parade Float Has Ties To Upstate New York Organ Donor, Recipient

December 17, 2008

This New Year’s Day, as millions enjoy the 2009 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., parade watchers will have an opportunity to see the special Donate Life float that recognizes organ and tissue donors and their families for the generous gifts of life that have saved so many across the nation.

This year’s Donate Life float has ties to two individuals from upstate New York – a donor from Cato, and a liver transplant recipient from East Syracuse – who are playing a part in the float preparation and the parade itself.

Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, the organ procurement organization that serves the Finger Lakes region, central and northern New York, and the Donor Family Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting spiritual, mental and physical well being of bereaved families, are sponsoring the trip to California for Karen Kline of Cato and her family. In 1999, Karen’s daughter, Kelly who was 12 years old, became a donor following seizures and a high fever. Her family chose to donate her organs and tissue, which helped save the lives of three adult recipients.

On Dec. 27, Karen and her family will help decorate the 38 floragraphs – artistic portraits created with floral and other natural materials – which will be part of the float. One of the floragraphs will be of Kelly. The Klines will attend the Rose Dedication ceremony on Dec. 29 in which donor families each place a rose on the float, one family at a time. They’ll also attend the float judging.

“It means so much to my family to be able to travel to Pasadena and participate in the float creation,” Kline said. “Our Kelly was a friendly, loving person who affected everyone she met. We are honored to be able to share her spirit in this way.”

Lily Allen of East Syracuse also is traveling to California to help decorate the float and to ride on it New Year’s Day. Allen received a liver transplant at the University of California-Los Angeles in 1984, when she was less than 1 year old. Now 25 and recently married, Allen will decorate a floragraph in memory of her donor, Matthew Bemis of Nebraska, alongside Matthew’s parents on Dec. 20.

“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Allen said. “Our families have kept in touch over the years, since about a year after my surgery, and they’ve become a special kind of family to me – I even invited them to my wedding. They’re amazing.”

More than 28,000 lives are saved each year in the U.S. through the gift of organ donation, giving hope to the more than 100,000 people awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. In addition, every year hundreds of thousands of people need donated corneas and tissue to prevent or cure blindness, heal burns or save limbs.

“Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network is thrilled to be a part of this event that helps to further raise awareness about organ and tissue donation and honors those who have so generously given the gift of life,” said FLDRN Executive Director Rob Kochik. “Heroes like Kelly provide the incredible gift of life to recipients like Lily. We are very proud to be able to salute all of the organ and tissue donors and their families.”

In addition to the many floragraphs that will adorn the float, it also will carry dozens of white stars that are donated to represent those who have been touched by donation, while four transparent stars will symbolize those in need of donated organs, corneas and tissue. The large orange-yellow stars at the front of the float will carry more than 1,000 roses dedicated to donors, recipients and candidates in need of a transplant. Last year, dedicated roses came from all 50 states and from 21 countries.

For more information about the Donate Life Rose Parade Float, visit the official float web site at www.donatelifefloat.org. For information about how to become an organ and tissue donor and to enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry, visit www.NYHealth.gov/donatelife.

Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, affiliated with the University of Rochester Medical Center, coordinates organ donation in 20 counties with a population of 2.4 million, and serves 38 hospitals in the Finger Lakes region, central and northern New York, including University Hospital in Syracuse.

For Media Inquiries:
Karin Christensen
(585) 275-1311
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