Donation Essentials Blog

“Gift of Life” Balloon Dazzles at 9News Parade of Lights for 12th Year

For the twelfth year in a row, Colorado families of organ, eye and tissue donors and transplant recipients escorted a balloon float in the annual 9NEWS Parade of Lights in downtown Denver. The Donate Life Colorado float, titled “Gift of Life”, represents 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.

9news Parade of Lights "Gift of Life" Balloon

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The Gift of Life balloon was escorted by Colorado families whose loved ones made the decision to donate and transplant recipients who benefitted from donation. The group was made up of roughly 20 moving stories of hope, including:

  • Melanie Merrill-Kennedy, Recipient’s Mother, Parker, CO: 

Each year as the season of giving arrives, I like to reflect on one of the greatest gifts our family has been given: the gift of life. My son, Pochie, is a liver transplant recipient and was given a second chance at life thanks to his heroic donor and their family.

With a career in the medical field and after years of caring for transplant patients, I’ve always had an appreciation for the incredible transformation made possible through a donor’s gift of life. That feeling of gratitude grew even more after I became the mother of a transplant recipient.

It’s been almost 12 years since I met Pochie and later brought him into our family’s life. I met him the day I admitted him for his liver transplant. He touched my heart and I vividly remember telling our social worker that if he ever needed another foster placement to contact me.

Nine months later, in December 2012, I received an email that he needed another foster placement with the potential for adoption. I called my husband immediately and told him I couldn’t help feeling this was meant to be. Who better to take care of a liver transplant recipient than me? My husband agreed, and we brought Pochie home with us. I can’t imagine our family without him, and it was all made possible because someone said “yes” to organ donation.

Following the death of their child, at a time of tremendous grief, pain and heartbreak, the parents of Pochie’s donor made the decision to say yes to organ, eye, and tissue donation. I’m forever grateful for their decision.

In honor of Pochie’s donor and to raise awareness for organ, eye, and tissue donation, I will walk with Donor Alliance in the 9NEWS Parade of Lights in downtown Denver on Dec. 2. I will be escorting the “Gift of Life” balloon alongside dozens of others who have been touched by donation and transplantation.

In sharing our story, I’m hopeful that it will inspire others to say “yes” to organ, eye, and tissue donation. DonorAlliance.org is a great resource to help people make an informed decision about donation and to sign up to become a donor online. You can also register anytime you obtain or renew a driver license or state ID.

Melanie Merrill-Kennedy

Parker, CO

Parade of Lights Gift of LifeThe 9NEWS Parade of Lights is a downtown Denver tradition that brings joy to people of all ages in the form of illumination.

Join the 66 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 DonateLifeWyoming.org.

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