Rose Parade float honors local organ donor
(Contributed / Mountain States Health Alliance)
Jim Kennedy touched many people in his life. After his death six years ago, he touched the lives of dozens of others through the donation of his organs. Next month, Kennedy will again touch lives as his and the images of 75 other organ donors from across the United States will be part of the 121st Annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
This week friends and family came together to celebrate Kennedy’s life and put the final touches on the portrait — or floragraph — of him that will be part of the New Life Rises Float, sponsored by the Donate Life America organization.
“I felt like Ed McMahon came to the door with a Publisher’s Clearing House check when they called,” Kennedy’s wife, Kim, said to the crowd gathered at Johnson City Medical Center to celebrate Jim’s life and work on the float image. The evening was also Jim and Kim’s wedding anniversary.
“I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the occasion,” Kim Kennedy said.
The Donate Life float will be in the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, and its riders and floragraph honorees represent millions of people touched by organ and tissue donation, including donor families, their deceased loved ones, living donors, transplant recipients and transplant candidates.
Riders and floragraph honorees are individually sponsored by official partners who financially support the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. The Donate Life Float Committee graciously sponsored Kennedy’s floragraph, and Mountain Region Donor Services, the area’s organ, eye and tissue recovery organization, is sponsoring the family’s journey to Pasadena.
The New Life Rises float will feature a phoenix — the mythical symbol of life coming out of death — rising into the sky representing those who give life in their death and the people whose lives are renewed by their gifts. The bird will soar high above 24 riders who are composed of living donors and donor family members from across the nation.
Adorning the bird’s tail feathers are 76 floragraphs — portraits created with floral material — of deceased donors who gave life to those in need. In addition, donors from across the country are memorialized in a garden of dedicated roses, with each rose vial carrying a personal message of love, hope and remembrance.
Kennedy died of complications from a ruptured brain aneurysm on Nov. 22, 2003, at the age of 43. Prior to his death, he had designated his wishes to be a donor on his driver’s license application. He had discussed donation with his wife, Kim. She worked at Mountain Region Donor Services at the time of Jim’s death and has since used her loss to fuel her passion for educating the public about the critical need for and the benefits of organ and tissue donation.
According to Mountain Region Donor Services, organ donors save the lives of more than 28,000 Americans on average each year. More than three quarters of a million Americans benefit from the lifesaving and healing gifts organ and tissue donors provide.
“It is truly an honor for Jim to be selected as a floragraph honoree on the 2010 Rose Parade float,” Kim Kennedy said. “Jim’s decision to register as an organ and tissue donor helped save three lives and heal dozens more. It is our hope that his story will inspire other families to discuss donation, then sign up on their state donor registries.”