The Confluence of Life and Loss

Donate Life Float 2I stood up from my workstation and looked around to take in my surroundings. Try to envision “Santa’s Workshop” and that is what my eyes saw and what filled my heart on Dec. 27, 2014. Lots of people working diligently with smiles on their faces, love in their hearts and all with a strong connection to inspire the world to Donate Life. I was in a large warehouse in Pasadena, California, which housed several floats that would later ride in the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade. My husband, Noah, and I had the honor of helping to decorate the Donate Life Float.

I was sponsored by Astellas to ride on the Donate Life Float in 2011 and this was the third year I had assisted in decorating the awe-inspiring float. Thanks to Sierra Donor Services sponsoring our trip, Noah and I set off for our adventure to Pasadena with about 20 other volunteers on Dec. 26. I had the privilege of sharing my story on two different news stations, KCRA3 and CBS13, prior to boarding the plane to Pasadena. To view the two interviews, please click on the following links:

Cutting FlowersWe had a beautiful dinner the eve of our decorating shift with the entire volunteer group. Each of us shared our bond to organ donation. It was a touching way to kick off our trip. The following day, our decorating shift was from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. One can’t fathom the intricacy and labor of love that goes into the creation of the Donate Life Float until you are doing a task like gluing split lentils one-by-one on the float. That was the job Noah had this year. Due to my back issues, I was sitting at the tables in front of the float cutting flower petals into super tiny pieces. Our table spent hours and hours, practically all day, doing this task. These petals would then be glued onto the butterflies on the float. It is tedious work and every hour of each volunteer mattered to complete the priceless float.

However, what mattered most is why we were all there. We all shared a beautiful connection. The women around me proved this. The woman to my right has a daughter who is living today thanks to a liver transplant. The woman to my left lost her husband, who became an organ donor. Another woman at our table lost her 30-year-old son 10 years ago, who was also an organ donor. There I sat as a 12-plus year kidney transplant recipient thanks to my selfless living donor, Sally. Our lives came together because of life and loss. We share a strong bond. We are kindred spirits. It was an overwhelmingly beautiful thing.

Noah decorating

Decorating floragraph








I had the honor of making an eyebrow on one of the floragraphs. A floragraph is a mosaic of a person who passed away and became an organ donor and whose face would be displayed on the Donate Life Float. It was emotional and an honor to have this opportunity that was bestowed on me by one of the staff members. As I did this, the woman who lost her husband took pictures of me. I looked up and saw Noah up high on the scaffolding placing his lentils on the float. We waved to each other. What an emotional journey. I was surrounded by life and loss, yet our lives all came together at an emotional and inspiring confluence. We all shared the same sentiment: the love for life. One that because of organ donation is able to continue to live on because of someone’s selfless act of giving. I was overwhelmed with emotions during that moment and filled with a sense of contentment.

Gary Foxen

Tom Mone-CEO One Legacy-Friend made thanks to Gary Foxen &  float






Thank you to everyone who helps make the Donate Life Float possible and especially to the man who started it all, Gary Foxen. Gary was a transplant recipient who passed away from cancer in 2014. I had the honor of meeting him, exchanging a few touching emails and having the ride of my lifetime when I was a float rider. Thanks to Gary, Noah and I experienced one of the most amazing weekends of our lives when I was a float rider. We have also made wonderful friends thanks to the Donate Life Float. Gary’s legacy will live on forever and I hope to be a part of it annually. Please take the time to learn the history of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float and a celebration of the life of its Founder, Gary Foxen, by watching the following video:

Donate Life Float 1

Do you have a connection to organ donation? Please share your story below. 


  1. Daneen Barker

    My 19 yr old daughter was an organ donor in August 2013 after she suffered a brain AVM. We have become advocates for organ donation in her name. We have contact with three of her six recipients, which brings us much happiness. We would love to find a way to help with the Donate Life float & honor our daughter as well.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Daneen,

      I admire and commend you and your family for being advocates for organ donation after the loss of your daughter. I am thankful that it is a source of happiness for you. I reached out to One Legacy, who is the organization that is in charge of the Donate Life Float. To learn more about helping and honoring your daughter, please reach out to their Foundation Executive Director, Anne Grey, at I wish you all the best!


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