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Colorado Transplant Recipients, Families of Donors Celebrate Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation in National and Local Events This Holiday Season

Coloradans hope to inspire and educate the public on the importance of saying Yes to donation in the 2019 Rose Parade, 9News Parade of Lights

DENVER – Nov. 27, 2018– This holiday season, Coloradans impacted by organ, eye and tissue donation will be raising awareness for the cause and encouraging others to sign up to become a donor at local and national events. A local liver recipient will be sharing her story and representing Colorado on the 16th annual Donate Life Rose Parade float in the nationally televised Rose Parade. Additionally, numerous Coloradans that have either had a family member become a donor, or who have received a transplant themselves, will be escorting the Donate Life Colorado Gift of Life balloon in Denver’s 9News Parade of Lights.

“At a time of year when Coloradans are considering ways to give back to their community, we are hopeful that the impact donation and transplantation has had on the lives of those represented in this year’s parades will inspire Coloradans and people across the country to sign up to become donors,” said Sue Dunn, president and CEO of Donor Alliance, the federally designated non-profit organization that facilitates organ and tissue donation in Colorado and Most of Wyoming. “With nearly 2,500 people in Colorado and nearly 120,000 nationwide currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant, there is perhaps no greater act of kindness than becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor: a single donor can save and heal the lives of up to eight people through organ donation and as many as 75 more through tissue donation.”

“The Melody of Life” Donate Life Float at the 130th Rose Parade

On New Year’s Day, local liver recipient, Colleen Reed from Denver, will ride aboard the Donate Life float in honor of her donor. The float has become the world’s most visible campaign to inspire donation. Colleen will be joined by 25 other individuals from across the country whose lives have also been touched by donation and transplantation.

On New Year’s Day 2016, exactly three years prior to this year’s parade, Colleen learned from her doctor that her liver was full of tumors. She had a rare, and in her case aggressive, sarcoma that had taken hold of her liver and her life. After realizing that the sarcoma could not be treated with chemotherapy and radiation, and that the only treatment option was a liver transplant, Colleen joined thousands of others across the country waiting for an organ transplant on the waiting list.

More than eight months after being diagnosed, Colleen received a lifesaving liver transplant. In the midst of tragedy and loss, the donor’s family supported the donation process and saved Colleen’s life and the lives of others. Colleen thinks of her donor and their family every day, and hopes to live in ways that bring honor to her donor’s life. She is forever grateful for the gift of life from her donor; for the love and support of her spouse, family and friends; for the excellent care she received throughout her journey; and for the lifesaving work of Organ Procurement Organizations across the country.

Colleen’s participation in the parade is sponsored by Donor Alliance. The organization has funded float participants with the Donate Life float for more than a decade. Members of Colleen’s care team, including her transplant surgeon, Igal Kam, MD are also showing their support with a special sendoff event on Dec. 17 at UC Health University of Colorado Hospital.

The 130th Rose Parade will start at 8 a.m. PST on January 1, 2019 and be broadcast live in the U.S. by broadcast partners ABC, NBC, HGTV, Hallmark Channel, Univision and more. Check local broadcast listings for more information. For more information about the 2019 Donate Life Rose Parade Float, visit http://www.donatelifefloat.org.

Donate Life Colorado “Gift of Life” Balloon at the 43rd Annual 9News Parade of Lights

Before the Rose Parade, donation and transplantation will also be celebrated locally in Denver at the 9News Parade of Lights. On November 30 and December 1, this annual holiday tradition will feature the Donate Life Colorado “Gift of Life” balloon, which is a jumbo balloon in the shape of a gift box, honoring organ, eye and tissue donors and representing the hope made possible by donation. Families of donors and transplant recipients from across Colorado will lead the float.

Among those walking in this year’s parade are the following Coloradans, with inspiring stories of being touched by donation and transplantation:

  • Douglas Carlson, liver recipient, Littleton, CO: Douglas received a lifesaving liver transplant nearly 20 years ago after being diagnosed with a rare liver disease. Last year, Douglas celebrated his 73th birthday and continues to work hard to honor his donor by staying healthy, playing ice hockey two days a week and working with a local boy scouts troop.
  • Maria Avalos, mother of a donor, Thornton, CO: Maria’s daughter, Jasmine, passed away after a tragic accident when she was just 17 years old. Always a kind and generous person, Jasmine’s legacy lives on through the seven lives she saved through organ donation.
  • Rob Fettner, two-time heart recipient, Aurora, CO: At the age of 22, Rob was diagnosed with heart failure. He received two lifesaving heart transplants – one at the age of 30 after 9 months on the waiting list and his second at 35 after spending another 13 months in the hospital waiting. There isn’t a day that goes by that Rob doesn’t thank his donors for another chance to spend time with his friends and family and live his best possible life.
  • Sydney Rhodes, sister of a donor, Lakewood, CO and Dylan Rasmussen, heart recipient, Cheyenne, WY: Sydney’s sister Kenzie tragically passed away in October 2004, just four days before her 18th birthday. As a registered donor, Kenzie was able to save the lives of five recipients through donation. Since Kenzie’s passing, her family continues to make connections with her recipients and have met her heart recipient, Dylan, and his family. Dylan has had Kenzie’s heart for 14 years, and Sydney and her family can’t imagine anyone more deserving. Dylan and his family will be joining Sydney and other members of Kenzie’s family in escorting the Gift of Life balloon on Dec. 1.

Donor Alliance Parade of LightsThis year marks the 43rd annual 9News Parade of Lights. The two-mile parade through Downtown Denver is free to attend and features marching bands, ornate floats and a special appearance by Santa. For more information about the 9News Parade of Lights, including the parade route, visit: http://www.downtowndenver.com/9News-parade-of-lights/.

Colorado residents can register their decision to be donors by saying Yes each time they obtain or renew a driver license or state ID, or anytime at www.DonateLifeColorado.org.

About Donor Alliance

Donor Alliance is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation. As the organ procurement organization and accredited tissue bank for Colorado and most of Wyoming, Donor Alliance serves more than 5.8 million residents and more than 100 hospitals. The organization adheres to medical, regulatory and ethical standards: respectfully working with the families of organ and tissue donors, maintaining partnerships with hospitals, educating residents on the life-saving benefits of donation and inspiring them to sign up on the state’s donor registry. Colorado and Wyoming boast some of the highest rates of donor registration in the country, which directly translates to more lives saved and healed through organ and tissue transplantation.

Donor Alliance is one of 58 federally designated organizations of its kind in the United States, and is also an American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) accredited tissue bank.. For more information visit DonorAlliance.org or the Donate Life Colorado or Donate Life Wyoming Facebook pages.