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Rose Parade float a touching tribute to organ donors

January 29, 2020
Donate Life's spectacular float in the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2020
The late father of two PeaceHealth caregivers is honored on Donate Life Rose Parade float

Andrea Cline and Lindsey Leighton, sisters who both work at PeaceHealth's medical center in Springfield, Ore., spent New Year's Day 2020 in Pasadena, Calif., where their father, Loren Leighton, was honored on Donate Life's Rose Parade float.   

Loren was among 44 organ donors memorialized with a floragraph—a portrait made of flowers, seeds and other natural materials.Irene Leighton and her daughters with the Donate Life Rose Parade float, with a floragraph of her late husband, Loren Leighton

It was a unique and meaningful way to honor Loren, a registered organ donor, who died after falling from a ladder in November 2018.

Organ donation the common thread 

“Attending this event was amazing,” says Irene Leighton, Loren’s wife of 40 years, who joined Andrea, Lindsey and their sister Leanne Fobert in Pasadena. “Donor families, donor recipients and living donors were honored and encouraged to participate in so many meaningful activities. We really didn’t have any idea how impactful this week was going to be. Donation was the thread running through each attendee’s story, and there was a common understanding when we shared with one another.”

Inspired by Southeast Asia’s Diwali, the Festival of Lights, the Donate Life float’s theme was “Light in the Darkness.”  It was among 39 floats in the annual New Year’s Day parade, which attracts over 700,000 spectators, as well as over 45 million television viewers. The 2020 parade theme was “The Power of Hope.” Watch Donate Life’s float in action in this ABC News clip.

Road to Pasadena

The Leighton family’s path to Pasadena began when Monte Leighton, Loren’s youngest brother who works for Dignity Memorial Mortuary services in Sacramento, nominated Loren to be featured on the float.

Irene flew to Sacramento in November to participate in a memorial for Loren and to put the finishing touches on his floragraph, which was based on a family photograph and created by volunteers.Irene Leighton and Monte Leighton finish the floragraph portrait of Irene's husband, Loren Leighton, an organ donor

Then Dignity Memorial arranged for Irene and her daughters to travel and stay in Pasadena where they joined other volunteers to arrange flowers on the float. They also wrote a personal message to place on a yellow rose—one of the thousands of messages from around the country to individual donors, transplant recipients and patients awaiting transplants.

The Donate Life float not only memorializes those who have given organs to others, but it honors the recipients of these life-changing gifts. Eighteen transplant recipients rode on the 2020 float and eight living donors or transplant recipients walked alongside it.

Light in the darkness

The float was spectacular and captured how organ donation is the light in the darkness for both donor families and donor recipients, Irene and her daughters say.

As difficult as the past year has been for the Leightons, Loren’s choice to be an organ donor has provided his family with unforeseen opportunities to honor his life and grieve his loss.Close-up of Loren's portrait on Rose Parade float

Like the theme of Donate Life’s float, “Light in the Darkness,” Loren’s choice brought a ray of light into the darkness of losing him. His donated liver, kidneys and corneas have helped five people and his tissue could help up to 75 people.

In memory of Loren, the Leighton family asks you, your friends and family members to please consider registering to be an organ donor. 

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