DONATE LIFE ROSE PARADE FLOAT-ORGAN DONOR'S MEMORY COMING UP ROSES
Source: Tri-State Defender
By Dr. Karanja A. Ajanku
The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., became a part of Sharon Taylor’s life in September when she learned that a likeness of her son, Kiethen, would be included on the 2010 Donate Life Rose Bowl float, “New Life Rises.”
Out of unimaginable tragedy, flows the gift of life: Kiethen Taylor of Memphis, who was killed in a car crash in 2008, has been selected as a floragraph honoree on the 2010 Donate Life float in the Rose Bowl Parade. He is the first African-American honoree from Memphis. (Courtesy Photo)
Karen Libs, hospital services manager for Mid-South Transplant Foundation and the official crew chief for Phoenix Decorating assigned to the Donate Life float, helped decorate a portion of Kiethen Taylor’s floragraph in Pasadena, Calif., last weekend. The floragraph was completed at Shady Grove Elementary School by his family and classmates on Thursday morning (Dec. 17). (Courtesy photo)
Twelve months earlier, seven-year-old Kiethen Taylor had been killed instantly after his family’s car was rear-ended while he was in the back seat. His parents made the decision to donate his organs.
On Thursday morning (Dec. 17), Kiethen’s mother, other family members and supporters gathered at Shady Grove Elementary School, where they joined Kiethen’s former classmates, teachers and administrators to complete the floragraph, which is an artistic portrait created by using spices, seeds, flowers and other organic materials to cover a digitized photograph.
This is the third year a floragraph honoree has come from Memphis, but the first time the honoree has been an African American. The campaign celebrates individuals who offer the lifesaving gifts of organ and tissue donation.
“The number of African Americans in this area…on the waiting list is so much higher than the national average because of the high rate of diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Randy Lipman, community outreach manager for the Mid-South Transplant Foundation, Inc. (MSTF), the organ procurement organization serving greater Memphis. “We are really trying to get the word out.”
Thanks to MTSF, the Taylors – Sharon Taylor, her husband Kiethen Sr., and their sons, Thomas and Curlandrius, – will jet to Pasadena for the parade. They’ll see Kiethen’s floragraph and 76 others on a float that features a phoenix – the mythical symbol of life coming out of death.
Most of Kiethen’s floragraph was decorated last weekend in Pasadena. It arrived in Memphis this week. The eyebrows and part of the face remained undecorated so those who knew him and love him can give finish adding the seeds, flowers and glue.
An official crew leader from the Rose Bowl Parade traveled to Memphis to oversee the completion. The floragraph will be held here in Memphis for a couple of days. It will be on display Sunday at Olivet Fellowship Church, which is pastored by Rev. Dr. Eugene L. Gibson Jr., who spoke at Keithen’s funeral and who has been active educating the community about organ donation.
“This is a really a sweet thing,” said Lipman. “It’s a real tragedy how it all came about.”
On Sept. 16, 2008, the Taylor family was returning from church when a car traveling 80 miles per hour hit their vehicle, which was at a standstill. The driver had blacked out after an epileptic seizure.
Sharon Taylor actually had signed up to be an organ donor “a long time ago.”
“But I never thought I would be in a situation to actually sign and say, ‘Yes,’ and basically donate my son’s organs,” she said.
Taylor talks openly and willingly about the decision to donate.“It was an honor to be able to donate his organs so that others could live,” she said. “I would definitely suggest everyone sign up to be an organ donor. That way others can have a chance at life. And also live longer and do things that they have always desired to do.”
The 121st annual Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena begins at 10 a.m. CST on Friday, January 1, 2010.