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Donate Life float hopes to inspire people to become organ donors

One Rose Parade float honors organ and tissue donors from across the country who’ve saved and improved the lives of others. This year’s entry “One More Day” features floral portraits of people who donated life through their organs and tissue.

Almost four years ago in March, Carol Rivera of Downey lost her son, Flint Adam Rivera. She says he committed suicide a year after a drunk driver killed his girlfriend. Rivera says that shortly before her son took his own life, he renewed his driver’s license and checked the box on the application to become a donor.

Rivera says three children and two adults got veins and arteries from his heart.

"He was 6 foot tall, he had broad shoulders, a big back. They took his skin and bones and tendons and tissue from his body" Rivera says. "And it’s comforting to know that he still lives around there you know—somewhere in somebody a little bit of him’s still there."

In the days before the Rose Parade, Carol Rivera spent time pasting flowers to a “flora graph” of Flint on the Donate Life Float. She planned to watch for the float from a grandstand on Colorado Boulevard. Rivera’s listed herself as an organ more than 30 years. She says she speaks with a lot of groups about her reasons.

"The way I feel is that once you die, you don’t need your body anymore, and why not benefit somebody else?"

Nearly 9 million Californians have registered to donate organs and tissue after they die. That’s the largest donor organ registry of any state. But California is also home to the largest number of people waiting for donors. More than 21,000 need organ transplants right now.

Float sponsor Donate Life estimates that about a third of them will die waiting. The nonprofit hopes its annual Rose Parade entry will inspire more people to join the national organ donor registry. Donation experts say a single person can save up to eight lives and help 50 more people with the gift of tissue.