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Organ Donors and Recipients Honored in Upcoming Rose Parade®

Savannah Sides will appear on the Donate Life Rose Parade® float among 43 other organ, eye and tissue donors who in their death, saved, healed and gave hope to thousands of people in need. Sides’ family completed her memorial “floragraph” portrait at an event held at Children’s of Alabama on Friday, Nov. 17. Only organic materials, such as spices, seeds, and crushed flowers are used to create floragraphs. Ann Rayburn, director of education for the Alabama Organ Center, Alabama’s non-profit organ and tissue recovery agency, donated a kidney to a friend in June of 2016. Rayburn will be one of eight living donors and recipients walking alongside the float.

This year’s float entry, The Gift of Time, reflects the parade’s theme, “Making a Difference,” by celebrating the power of kindness and the people in our communities that are selflessly making a positive difference in our lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. The Gift of Time depicts a vibrantly colored, tropical backdrop that dates back to the ancient civilizations of Mexico. The float celebrates the gift of life as 16 costumed riders sit alongside the jungle, against stone carvings, drawing on a strength they have gained from their donors to continue and thrive on life’s journey. The monumental Aztec calendar draws the eye to the center of the float, where 44 donors are honored with floragraphs. This ancient calendar reminds us the enduring, life-saving power of the generosity of donors and families. Alongside the float, eight living donors and recipients carry baskets of fruit and flowers in celebration of the renewed life they have shared with one another and the world. The beauty, richness, and potential of life is represented by the vivid flock of macaws perched over the lush floral canopies, ready to take flight.

“The Rose Parade gives the organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation community an opportunity to come together as a team to inspire millions of viewers to support their fellow Americans by registering as donors,” says Chris Meeks, executive director of the Alabama Organ Center, which coordinated Savannah’s donation. "There is no better way to make a difference in someone’s life than through the gift of organ, eye and tissue donation. The 2018 float beautifully conveys the gift of time and the magnitude of the gift.”  

At the young age of 5, Savannah told her parents that she wanted to help others through donation. Sadly, one month after that important conversation, Savannah was killed in a tragic car accident. When the doctors told Savannah’s family that there was no brain activity, her dad remembers her words, “I won’t need them when I get to heaven.” He asked the doctors if she could help somebody. That day, Savannah’s selfless decision saved five lives through organ and tissue donation and allowed two others to receive the gift of sight.

In 1989, Rayburn left critical care nursing to work as a procurement transplant coordinator in Kentucky. She met her kidney recipient, Tess Bourge, just prior to moving to Birmingham, AL. Tess and Ann have been friends for over 20 years and it was an easy choice for Rayburn to donate a kidney to Bourge.  

“The Alabama Organ Center is proud to sponsor Savannah and Ann as our 2018 honorees on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float,” states Meeks. “They exemplify the generous nature of donors and their families.” The 2018 Rose Parade® will be held on Monday, Jan. 1.

Today, more than 115,000 candidates are on the national organ transplant waiting list, with nearly 3,000 waiting in Alabama. Largely due to the rarity of donation opportunities, only about 30,000 organs are transplanted each year in the U.S. As a result, 20 candidates die each day for lack of a donor. A single organ donor can save the lives of eight people, 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. Visit www.alabamaorgancenter.org for more information, or to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor.