By Darla Shelden
On New Year’s Day, two very special Oklahomans will be honored in the 124th annual Rose Parade. Maegan Ariana Yeakley from Oklahoma City and Valerie Vandervort Boyer from Claremore will be among those participating in Donate Life’s 2013 Rose Parade float representing both sides of organ, eye and tissue donation.
LifeShare Transplant Donor Services of Oklahoma, the state’s organ and tissue recovery organization, is sponsoring the Oklahoma participation.
The parade, themed “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” will air Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 10 a.m. (CST) from Pasadena, California.
“The national attention focused on the Donate Life float helps to reinforce Oklahoma’s local mission,” says Jeffrey Orlowski, LifeShare of Oklahoma CEO and Chairman of the Board for Donate Life America. “When you sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor – you save lives.”
Maegan Yeakley will be among the 72 organ, eye and tissue donors honored using floragraph portraits, which will be placed on this year’s Donate Life float. Each person represented has left a positive impact on their family and communities, and those they helped by giving the gift of life.
At only two months old, Maegan, daughter of Rusty and Marilyn Yeakley, was diagnosed with a pre-birth brain injury that required a shunt to be placed in her head. More than a year later, in 2003, Maegan’s shunt quit functioning properly and she stopped breathing.
As registered organ donors themselves, the Yeakleys readily donated her organs and saved the lives of three children and two adults.
“We are really honored to represent Oklahoma LifeShare and Donate Life at the Rose Parade,” said Marilyn. “We’ll be in the grandstand and attending a lot of events. This is the 10th anniversary of the Donate Life float and Maegen would have been 10 this year.”
Attended by family, friends and members of LifeShare, an event was recently held where the Yeakleys put the final touches on Maegan’s floragraph. The finished design was then returned to Pasadena.
Orlowski said, “As the donors’ families, friends and dozens of volunteers decorate the portraits, it’s amazing to see them come to life. The grains, flowers, seeds and other organic materials used to decorate the floragraphs bring a special connection to the float. It provides a wonderful opportunity for the Yeakley family in Oklahoma City to see their daughter, Maegan, honored before millions of people around the world.”
The Donate Life float will be #48 out of 91 parade entries. It will follow an equestrian entry, ONDAR and the Eagles of Tuva and precede the East-West Fusion All-Star Band.
The float, themed “Journeys of the Heart,” will carry 32 living donor recipients, including Valerie Vandervort Boyer. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at six weeks of age, Valerie was listed for transplant in 1999. After nearly two years, she received her gift of life, a double lung transplant, from 15-year-old Colbey Oglesby in time for her 30th birthday.
“Life post transplant just has a new meaning and I view life so much more differently,” said Valerie. “I take each day as it comes, and I take time to stop and smell the roses along the way.”
Since her transplant, Valerie has participated in the U.S. Transplant Games five times and has won six medals. In 2010, Colbey’s parents cheered for Valerie at the Games.
“I thank God for all my blessings, and my donor, and her family,” said Valerie. “I know I am truly blessed.”
Brian Stewart, Donate Life Float Committee Chair said, “Our hope is that through our participation in the Rose Parade, people see that donation isn’t about death, but it’s about life and the opportunity to leave a legacy of caring and giving to others.”
Today, more than 115,000 candidates are on the national organ transplant waiting list. Only about 28,000 organs are transplanted each year. As a result, 18 candidates die each day for lack of a donor.
A single organ donor can save the lives of eight people through organ donation, while a single tissue donor can save and heal 50 others through needed heart valves, corneas, skin, bone, and tendons that mend hearts, prevent or cure blindness, heal burns and save limbs.
“The loss of a loved one is more bearable when you know that their gift of life can save someone else,” Marilyn said. “For me, the gift of life is the most precious thing you can have and the most precious thing you can give.”
Parade viewers are encouraged to join the nation’s 107 million registered donors. Registrations can be made in Oklahoma at www.lifeshareregistry.org
The Rose Parade is broadcast on ABC, Hallmark Channel, HGTV, KTLA, NBC, RFD-TV and Univision. For more information visit www.DonateLifeAmerica.org