Transplant recipients lead “Gift of Life” float in Denver’s treasured holiday tradition: 9NEWS Parade of Lights
Donate Life Colorado float to remind holiday revelers importance of giving gift of life through organ, eye and tissue donation
DENVER- The holiday season is here, reminding us of all the things we have to be thankful for. On December 5 and 6, local transplant recipients will show their thanks for the selfless actions of their donors by escorting a balloon float in the annual 9NEWS Parade of Lights. The Donate Life Colorado float, titled “Gift of Life,” is 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 organ and tissue procurement agency for Colorado and most of Wyoming.
The transplant recipients escorting the float are the stars of a new awareness campaign for organ and tissue donation, which will be seen throughout Colorado and Wyoming. The campaign, titled “My hero said yes” represents the amazing, real-life stories of local transplant recipients. It also honors their donors who made a selfless and heroic decision by saying “yes” to registering as organ, eye and tissue donors. Coloradans and Wyoming residents will come to recognize these recipients as they see them around town on billboards, in advertisements, online and in materials in drivers license and drivers services offices.
The transplant recipients escorting the balloon include:
- Cayde Brannaman, double lung recipient, Cheyenne, WY: When she was just 6-years-old, a double lung transplant saved Cayde’s life. She is now a normal kid and loves dolls and cooking.
- Joseph Gutierrez, tissue/bone recipient, Littleton, CO: After suffering from a progressive giant cell tumor, donated bone was used to replace a large portion of Joe’s arm, and returned him to an active lifestyle.
- Yvette Matthews, liver recipient, Parker, CO: Twelve years after being diagnosed with a rare liver disease, a liver transplant saved Yvette’s life. This year she took home nine gold medals in the Transplant Games of America.
- Tiffany Pierce, liver recipient, Westminster, CO: After being diagnosed with liver failure, Tiffany began preparing for the end of her life. She was the lucky recipient of a liver transplant last year, and now has a second chance at life with her two children.
- Connor Randall, heart recipient, Arvada, CO: Connor Randall received his first heart before he learned to walk after being diagnosed with a deadly heart disease. Ten years later, he received his second heart. Today Connor is a thriving student and musician.
- Jason Wynia, heart recipient, Casper, WY: Jason’s pneumonia progressed to heart failure. After living for a while with an LVAD, a heart transplant saved Jason, and he has returned to full-time work and an active life with his wife.
- Lella Young, liver recipient, Delta, CO: Diagnosed with a rare liver condition, Lella received a liver transplant when she was just eight months old. Now, Lella is well and enjoys playing t-ball, swimming competitively and reading.
“We are thrilled to participate in the festive Parade of Lights for the third consecutive year; our inspiring group of transplant recipients will demonstrate to spectators the hope and amazing possibilities of organ, eye and tissue transplantation,” said Sue Dunn, president and CEO of Donor Alliance. “We hope our message will inspire Colorado and Wyoming residents to register as donors on their state registries, if they have not already. It is an easy and important way to give back to the community and patients in need.”
Other transplant recipients, families of organ, eye and tissue donors, living donors and Donor Alliance employees will also assist with escorting the balloon. 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. Transplant recipients will wear red Santa hats, donor families will wear blue Santa hats, living donors will wear purple Santa hats, and supporters will wear elf hats.
This year marks the 40th Annual 9NEWS Parade of Lights. The two-mile parade route in Downtown Denver is the stage for Colorado’s brightest holiday tradition. The free holiday spectacular features marching bands, ornate floats and a special appearance by Santa. For more information, including the parade route, visit: http://denverparadeoflights.com/.
This Gift of Life balloon acts a reminder to give the easiest and most powerful gift of all this year by joining the 68 percent of Coloradans and 59 percent of Wyoming residents 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 or call 888-868-4747 for more information.