For the second year in a row, Colorado families of organ, eye and tissue donors and transplant recipients will escort a balloon float in the annual 9NEWS Parade of Lights in downtown Denver Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7. The Donate Life Colorado float, titled “Gift of Life” will be a jumbo balloon in the shape of a gift box, representing the hope made possible by organ, eye and tissue donation. Donate Life Colorado is the donor registry for the state, managed by Donor Alliance, the federally-designated, non-profit organ procurement organization and American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) accredited tissue bank serving Colorado and most of Wyoming.
“This holiday season, we encourage everyone to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor as a way to give back to the community,” said Sue Dunn, president and CEO of Donor Alliance. “Right now there are more than 2,200 people in Colorado waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. There is no greater kindness than giving the gift of life; just one donor can save or enhance more than 100 lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. The Parade of Lights is a wonderful new tradition for us, allowing us to celebrate the lifesaving and healing gifts of donation with a large Colorado audience that cherishes this popular holiday event.”
The Gift of Life balloon will be escorted by Colorado families whose loved ones made the decision to donate and transplant recipients who benefitted from donation. The group will be made up of roughly 20 moving stories of hope, including:
- Amy Johnson, Donor Mom, Englewood, CO: There is nothing more devastating than losing a child. But in the midst of her loss, Amy made a decision that ultimately saved many lives. Amy’s daughter Nicole donated her heart, liver and kidney to people in dire need of lifesaving transplants. Because of this gift, numerous people were given a second chance at life. Amy says, “I feel that I, too, am living again since Nicole’s death. Knowing Nicole saved so many lives through her gifts, I feel such peace and calmness in my heart.” Amy and her family have become incredibly close with the recipient of Nicole’s heart, Mandee. Last year, Amy and her husband walked up the aisle as the “other parents of the bride” on Mandee’s wedding day. “It was a pretty special moment for me to know that it was my Nicole’s heart that made that day possible for Mandee,” Amy said.
- Linda Seavey, Liver Recipient, Evergreen, CO: Last year Linda Seavey suddenly went from the picture of health to acute liver failure from an unknown cause. Her health deteriorated quickly and doctors told her that she had only days, perhaps just hours to live. Luckily, Linda received a liver transplant last February, in time to save her life. Linda credits the courage and compassion of her donor’s family for her life today. Now Linda tells others: you can be someone’s miracle by registering to be an organ, eye or tissue donor.
- Joseph Gutierrez, Tissue/Bone Recipient, Littleton, CO: In March of 2011, Joseph was at risk of losing his arm. With diminishing mobility and increasing pain, a series of tests revealed that he had a progressive giant cell tumor on his shoulder. Though the tumor was non-cancerous, it was aggressive and came back just six months post-surgery. By replacing a large portion of Joe’s shoulder and upper arm with donated bone, doctors were able to save his arm and restore his quality of life. Joe realizes the impact of this gift and plans to get in touch with his donor’s family to meet and thank them.
Also helping to escort the Gift of Life balloon will be Donor Alliance staff and volunteers, who facilitate the miracle of donation and transplantation in Colorado, as well as Guy VROOM, the character from the “Save Time Renew Online” campaign, a joint project from Donor Alliance, Colorado Interactive and the Colorado Department of Revenue. The comical, mullet-wearing “dude”—forever stuck in the ‘80s like his driver’s license photo—encourages people to renew their driver’s licenses and ID cards online and to register as organ, eye and tissue donors while renewing.
The Parade of Lights crowd and viewers at home will be able to easily tell how each person escorting the Gift of Life float has been touched by donation. Donor families will wear blue Santa hats, transplant recipients will wear red Santa hats and supporters will wear elf hats.
The 9NEWS Parade of Lights is a downtown Denver tradition that brings joy to people of all ages in the form of illumination. The parade, presented by American Furniture Warehouse and AutoNation, steps off from the Denver City & County Building at 14th & Bannock Street, and the route continues for two miles through the streets of Downtown Denver. The parade will take place on Friday, December 6th from 8-9 PM, and Saturday, December 7th from 6-7PM. For more information about the 9News Parade of Lights, visit DenverParadeOfLights.com.
Join the 67 percent of Coloradans who have registered to be organ, eye and tissue donors. For more information about organ and tissue donation, please visit DonorAlliance.org. To register to be an organ and tissue donor, please visit DonateLifeColorado.org or call 303-329-4747 for more information.