Each year, Donate Life organizations from across the United States and throughout the world celebrate the “gift of life” through organ and tissue donation by creating a float to be featured in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. Gift of Hope is proud to be a part of this amazing event.
Over the next few days, we will feature the stories of Illinoisans and Hoosiers who are organ and tissue donation advocates and have been a part of making the 2014 Donate Life Float a reality.
Today, we would like to introduce Larry Lefferts. Larry is a donor father and an avid advocate for organ and tissue donation. He and his wife, Vivian, represented Gift of Hope at last year’s Tournament of Roses Parade. They enjoyed the experience so much that they are returning for the 2014 parade as members of the Donate Life Float Advisory Committee.
Without further ado, here is Larry’s story in his own words.
The English language is far too inadequate to describe the beautiful experience of being involved with the Donate Life Float! Words like “joy”, “pain”, “comfort”, “healing”, “support”, “compassion”, “love”, “sharing”, “caring”, “thankful”, “remarkable”, “overwhelming” do not seem adequate in conveying just what this experience was all about. We met new, very dear friends who make one feel like they have been our friends for a very long time.
There is Kevin Monroe, who donated a kidney to his brother and has worked on every Donate Life Float. He was in charge of a shift for building the float. After telling him Vivian was riding the float, he asked what state we were from. When we said Illinois, he said he knew about us and then said something about our fireworks business and our son. His eyes swelled with tears as we talked about John and we all cried. What compassion he showed us!
Then there is the driving force behind the float, Bryan Stewart. It was amazing to watch his skill at handling all of the things thrown at him. We also got to know Bryan’s assistant, Annie Kiefhaber, quite well. We were even able to help her with coordinating buses for the parade.
And there was Heidi Schaiberger! We were so very blessed to be able to meet her and share the experience with her.
The joy and anticipation on the day of the Parade was palpable! The Donate Life folks sat facing each other on both sides of Colorado Blvd which hosts much of the parade route. It was a joy watching the other floats and bands go by as everyone cheered. We could see a couple blocks up to “media corner” as floats turned towards us. There was a clear view, stirring much excitement, when the Donate Life Journey of the Heart Float turned the corner. To watch it approach us and see it so clearly was truly a life changing moment. I saw my lovely bride, Vivian, clutching my son’s photo and waving back at all of us! I was flooded and overwhelmed with emotion as I watched this beautiful creation sail by us and heard the Float’s theme song, Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart.” I was truly blessed to be there for this moment! It was joyous!
Vivian and I felt so very blessed! Our lives were changed on that day. We pledged to return at some time in the future and volunteer in the hopes we could again experience the healing joy. Imagine our excitement when Annie Kiefhaber called us and asked if we would like to be on her Donate Life Float Committee! We were, and are, thrilled beyond belief at this opportunity. It is our hope to make the Donate Life Rose Parade Float Class of 2014 feel as blessed as we were made to feel by those who were there for us!