Transplant Recipients, Families of Donors Celebrate the Gift of Life in Holiday Parades Across Colorado and Wyoming

November 19, 2019

This holiday season, residents across Colorado and Wyoming whose lives have been touched by organ, eye and tissue donation will join Donor Alliance to celebrate the gift of life and raise awareness for the cause at community parades across the two-state area. Coloradans that have had a family member become a donor, or who have received a transplant themselves, will escort the Donate Life Colorado “Gift of Life” balloon in Denver’s 9News Parade of Lights and also show support at the 35th Annual Festival of Lights Parade in Colorado Springs. Wyomingites will join Donate Life Wyoming at the Cheyenne Christmas Parade to raise awareness for donation and transplantation aboard the the “How Big is Your Heart?” Grinch-inspired float.

“The holidays are a time when many people consider how to give back to their community. Showing your support for organ, eye and tissue donation and signing up to become a donor are quick and easy ways for anyone to spread hope this time of year,” 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. “We are grateful for the incredible advocates that spend part of their holiday season sharing their stories in order to help educate the public about the importance of donation and transplantation. We hope that the impact donation has had on their lives will inspire other Coloradans and Wyomingites to give the gift of life by joining their state donor registries.”

Cheyenne Christmas Parade

Donate Life Wyoming “How Big is Your Heart?” Float at the Cheyenne Christmas Parade

Wyoming residents are invited to join Donate Life Wyoming at this year’s Cheyenne Christmas Parade on December 7, where the organization will lead a Grinch-themed “How Big is Your Heart” float.

Heart recipient and Cheyenne resident Jeremy Smario will be riding the float and sharing his transplant journey at the parade. At 33 years old, Jeremy suffered from heart failure and was told he would need a transplant to survive. His journey on the waitlist was difficult, particularly when he lost a friend he met in the hospital also waiting for a transplant. But Jeremy remained hopeful and following a successful transplant the day before his birthday in 2017, he has been able to return to a happy, healthy life with his family.

Donate Life Colorado “Gift of Life” Balloon at the 45th Annual 9News Parade of Lights

On December 6 and 7, Coloradans are invited to join Donate Life Colorado at the annual 9News Parade of Lights in Denver where the “Gift of Life” balloon will be featured. The jumbo balloon is 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 along the two-mile parade route in Downtown Denver. Among those walking in this year’s parade are the following Coloradans, with inspiring stories of being touched by donation and transplantation:

Donor Alliance Parade of Lights

Parade of Lights

  • Kristen Adcock, mother of a donor, Morrison, CO: Kristen lost her son Connor in 2017 when he was just 19 years old. Connor was a registered donor. Through her work as a surgical technologist, Kristen has seen many lives improved through donation, and knowing Connor’s decision to be a donor improved or saved the lives of up to 70 people, was humbling. Kristen remembers her son as a giver throughout his life, and he continued this legacy with the gift of life after his death.
  • Lisa Vallejos, mother of a heart recipient, Denver, CO: Lisa’s son, Gabriel, was born with a rare heart defect. In order to survive, he needed a transplant immediately after he was born. At 13 days old, Gabriel received his new heart. Lisa sometimes listens to Gabriel’s heartbeat through a stethoscope as he sleeps and has the profound knowing that if it weren’t for someone making the heroic decision to give the gift of life, she would not be able to have moments like these. Gabriel is now a healthy 12-year-old living his life to the fullest, playing video games and learning to code.

Donate Life Colorado at the 35th Annual Colorado Springs Festival of Lights Parade

Also on December 7, Colorado Springs residents are encouraged to join Donate Life Colorado at the annual Festival of Lights Parade. Loved ones of donors, transplant recipients, transplant candidates, advocates and their families and friends will walk in the parade through downtown Colorado Springs in support of donation and transplantation. This year’s theme is “Home for The Holidays.”

Festival of Lights

Liver recipient and Firestone resident, Tim Atkinson will be at the parade and share his transplant story with the community. Tim was diagnosed with liver disease and told he would need a transplant. While on the waiting list, he experienced a medical emergency that caused his kidneys to fail and was found a viable donor match just 12 hours later. Now in good health, Tim is grateful to his selfless donor for giving the gift of life and stays in contact with his donor’s family. With his new lease on life, Tim vows to live every day to the fullest.

For more opportunities to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation this holiday season, visit Colorado and Wyoming residents can sign up to become donors by saying Yes each time they obtain or renew a driver license or state ID, or anytime at and

About Donor Alliance

Donor Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation. As the organ and tissue procurement agency for Colorado and most of Wyoming, Donor Alliance serves more than 5.8 million residents and more than 100 hospitals. Donor Alliance adheres to the highest medical, regulatory and ethical standards, and meets every performance standard. By 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, Donor Alliance is able to save lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation. 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. For more information visit or the Donate Life Colorado or Donate Life Wyoming Facebook pages.