Texans Honored on Donate Life Float

During this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 2, the Donate Life Rose Parade Float will make its way down the streets of Pasadena bearing people, messages and images that bring to life the inspiring power of organ, eye and tissue donation.

Several elements of the float carry special meaning.  The two dozen people riding on the float are all transplant recipients.  Those walking along side the float are living donors.  And, the the float will also feature 60 floral portraits – called Floragraphs – of Donor Heroes who have given the gift of life through organ, eye and tissue donation.

You can watch the Rose Parade on January 2 at 10:00 am, Central Time, on a variety of stations.  The Donate Life Float will be the 10th entry (and the third float) in the parade, so don’t miss it!  We also invite you to visit the Donate Life Rose Parade Float website to find information and photos for all of the Donate Life participants from across the country.

In addition to Donate Life Texas’ official 2017 delegate, Cindy Keel-White, Texas will be well-represented again this year.  Below, you can read more about the people from Texas whose lives have been touched by donation who will participate or be honored during the Rose Parade.


Eric Aofia – Push Forward, Give Selflessly


Eric always had a strong passion for life, his family and culture. Eric was a proud UTEP graduate and worked as an IT specialist at Texas Tech.  The day he married his best friend, Mandy Perez, the couple vowed to dance through life together, joined by a special kind of love.

Eric inspired others by his commitment to push forward in life and give selflessly.  On August 30, 2015, his family and community learned how deep that commitment ran when his final act on earth was as a Donor Hero, giving life and hope to five people he would never meet.

Floragraph made possible by Southwest Transplant Alliance


Cindy Keel-White – Full of Life

cindy-keel-whiteCindy was 15 years old when her life was interrupted by Hodgkin’s Disease that required months of treatment to save her life. Twenty-three years later, Cindy’s life was again interrupted. The intense radiation that sent her childhood cancer into remission had also damaged her heart, making a transplant her only hope.

Today, Cindy and her family use the saying “Because Of One” to honor the many blessings one person can make possible by saying “yes” to donation. Because of one person, Cindy has had the chance to experience so many things – to finish her first 5K race, to return to school at Odessa College, to join her husband in walking their daughter down the aisle…and soon, to ride on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float.  Float Ride made possible by Donate Life Texas

Cam’ron Matthews – A Name Remembered, On the Field and Beyond


Cam’ron Matthews was an outgoing and friendly junior at Alto High School in Texas where he played for the undefeated Yellowjackets, was on the student council and the A-B honor roll. He was a member of the Alto Church of Christ and friends and family describe him as a role model – one of the finest young men you would ever meet.

It’s almost been a year since his passing and the memory of this Donor Hero is stronger than ever.  Alto High School recently renamed their football field, Cam’ron Matthews Field in honor of a young man who inspired others in life and beyond. Floragraph made possible by Southwest Transplant Alliance


Jared Macias – True Cowboy, Big Heart

jaredmaciasJared was known as a true cowboy with a big heart and he was loved by everyone who knew him. He loved horseback riding, fishing with his Dad and brother, and digging up “treasures” in the back pasture.

He was only 11 years old when his gift of donation would inspire the entire community of Iowa Park.

Each year, Jared’s parents help keep the spirit of giving strong in his memory through the annual Jared Macias Memorial Bronc ride, with the proceeds going to local charities.  Floragraph made possible by Southwest Transplant Alliance


Katy Portell – Work of Heart

katyportellBorn in Houston with several heart defects, Katy needed open-heart surgery and a donor heart valve to survive childhood.

Since then, she has graduated college, volunteered for multiple Donate Life affiliates, and worked in the donation field for 2 years with the organ procurement organization in Dallas. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at Kingston University with the intention of working professionally to promote organ, eye and tissue donation.

Float Ride made possible by AATB, Community Tissue Services and CryoLife


Sgt. Leevon Ritter – Two Lines Make a Man into a Hero

leevon-ritterSgt. Leevon Ritter signed his name to two dotted lines – one to serve his country and the other to become a donor. After two tours of duty in Iraq as an M1A2 armor crewman with the U.S. Army, Sgt. Ritter was stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen where he continued his passion for building cars and motorcycles.  He became a Donor Hero in 2012 after a fatal motorcycle accident; he was just 24.

Leevon often encouraged others to believe in being AWESOME because “it makes you want to run faster, jump higher, be stronger, work harder and be kinder than you were yesterday.” There’s no arguing that Leevon is among the most AWESOME of all.

Floragraph made possible by Southwest Transplant Alliance


Tina Rueles – Wonderlung
tina-handsTina Rueles is an adventurous spirit from Euless.  Her 2013 double lung transplant has her breathing easy, when she’s not walking the graduation stage, winning a Transplant Games Medal or volunteering at countless events to promote donation.

But, it’s not all been roses.  In a cruel twist, Tina has experienced the other side of transplantation when a relative suffered a fatal accident while on a family vacation in Puerto Rico and became a Donor Hero.

She’s known as Wonderlung because there’s seemingly nothing she can’t do.  What’s her Superpower?  She shares her zest for life – and Donate Life – with everyone who comes near!   Float Ride made possible by Southwest Transplant Alliance

Tom Russell – Still Getting It Done

All his life, Tom’s “get-it-done” attitude came from a deep commitment to family, friends and his community.  After retiring from GE / Verizon, he became a much beloved substitute teacher in his hometown of Winnsboro.

When he passed suddenly, his wife and children knew it was his wish to give of himself through donation and weren’t surprised he had registered.

Since becoming a Donor Hero, Tom’s giving spirit continues to “get it done” as his gifts have restored sight to two people and touched the lives of several tissue recipients.  Floragraph made possible by RTI Donor Services

John Taylor – The Gift of Healing

When John became a Donor Hero in 2015 in Austin, his family grieved the loss of a man who had traveled the world, served his home country in the British Military, and protected the environment and wildlife through a career as a geophysicist with a large oil company.  He was a dedicated family man and was smitten with his grandchildren who all called him Papa.

His daughter Keri, herself an ER nurse, endured the painful loss but found a thread of hope in his having become a donor.  She was surprised to find out that his gifts helped heal 53 people who received tissue grafts.  It was then she realized that his donations helped her and her family heal, too.

Floragraph made possible by XTANT Medical and United Tissue Resources


P.J. Wolf – It’s Never Too Late to Honor a Hero

pj_wolfMore than 25 years ago, PJ jumped on his bike and set off through his Arlington neighborhood. He was a spunky 8 1/2 year old with a spirit for adventure.  But, that bike ride would be his last.

When asked about donation, his parents knew without a doubt it was what he wanted.  Months earlier, after watching a kidney transplant story on the news, PJ had asked his mother if he could give, because “I just need one.”

After all this time, his gifts are still making a difference in surprising ways. And, any time is a perfect time to honor a Donor Hero.

Floragraph made possible by the Dignity Memorial network


Tyler Ray Zapotocky – Tiny Boy, Amazing Gift


Whitney and Adam Zapotocky were devastated when an early ultrasound showed that their baby was not developing kidneys and would not survive after birth.  The young couple wanted as much good as possible to come from this little life and they became determined their baby would leave behind a legacy. They asked about organ donation.

Tyler Ray Zapotocky was born Nov. 5, 2014. He lived for 32 minutes. Because of his parents’ courage, this tiny Donor Hero gave 2.4 billion liver cells which can help sustain other children with liver failure until they are strong enough to receive an organ transplant.

Floragraph made possible by Southwest Transplant Alliance



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Because of One, Cindy Lives On


Donate Life Texas is pleased to announce our delegate for the 2017 Donate Life Rose Parade Float – Cindy Keel-White, a heart transplant recipient from Odessa, Texas.

On Jan. 2, 2017, Cindy will ride down Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena, California aboard the 2017 Donate Life Rose Parade Float entitled “Teammates in Life.”

For Cindy, a childhood battle with Hodgkin’s Disease ultimately led to the need for a transplant in 2011.  Since then, Cindy and her husband Steve have become active and passionate advocates for donation throughout West Texas.  Cindy regularly attends events and makes presentations to groups about the growing need for transplants and the importance of donor registration, including recent visits to Texas Department of Public Safety Driver License Offices in Midland, Odessa, Monahans and LaMesa among others.  She’s so active in fact that the organ procurement organization serving Midland / Odessa, Southwest Transplant Alliance, named her as their 2015 Regional Volunteer of the Year.

“We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to recognize Cindy for her passion for educating West Texans about the Donate Life Texas donor registry,” said Suzy Miller, executive director of Donate Life Texas. “Cindy and her family use the saying ‘Because of One’ to honor the many blessings a single donor can make possible. Because of her one donor, Cindy has been blessed with a second chance at life and she has honored that gift by making the most of every moment.”

The Donate Life Rose Parade float is an annual parade tradition to celebrate donation and its unique power to save, heal and transform lives. The float is accompanied each year by donor families, living donors and transplant recipients. It also is decorated with floral portraits, called floragraphs, of donors who have given the ultimate lifesaving gift of organ, eye and tissue donations.

Cindy was recently interviewed by KOSA CBS 7 in Odessa:

From her seat aboard the Donate Life Rose Parade Float, Cindy will join other donation advocates to share the message of donation with the world.  And, in a delightful coincidence, Cindy’s middle name is…Rose.

For more information, visit the 2017 Donate Life Rose Parade Float website.

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2017 Donate Life Rose Parade Float

During this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 2, 2017, the Donate Life Rose Parade Float will make its way down the streets of Pasadena bearing people, messages and images that bring to life the inspiring power of organ, eye and tissue donation.

This year’s float is titled Teammates in Life and features a spectacular Polynesian catamaran propelled by a team of 24 organ, eye, and tissue transplant recipients rowing with strength made possible by gifts from their donor heroes.  Those walking beside the float are living donors and transplant recipients of living donation.

The sails of the vessel will feature 60 floral portraits of donors interwoven with Polynesian designs and patterns. These portraits – called floragraphs – are based on photographs of the donors but are created using only organic materials such as seeds, flower petals, plants and grains.

The float is a loving tribute to the many lives touched by donation and transplants. It is a reminder that right now, 123,000 people in the US are waiting the transplants they need to survive.

This inspiring display is presented to help those watching to imagine a day when there is no longer a need for a Transplant Waiting List because organ, eye and tissue donation is embraced as a fundamental human responsibility.  Until that day, Donate Life Texas is thankful to all those who are willing to share their own experiences as a meaningful way to highlight the lifesaving power of donation.

Learn more about the history of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float here.

Meet the people from Texas who will participate or be honored on this year’s Donate Life Float here.

This year, Texas will be well-represented both on the float and in the stands on the parade route.  Donate Life Texas is proud to be represented by Cindy Keel-White, a heart transplant recipient and dedicated volunteer advocate from Odessa, Texas.

We invite you to watch our Donate Life Texas social media this month for announcements about the Donate Life Rose Parade participants who will represent the Lone Star State.



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What’s in a Name?

Your name can literally save and heal lives. In fact, when you register as an organ, eye and tissue donor you can save up to eight people, give sight to two people and heal up to seventy-five people.

That’s why we’re inviting everyone to give something unique—their names. This unique campaign is called Your Name Saves and it highlights the names hidden within your own as a metaphor of all the lives you have the potential to touch as a registered organ, eye and tissue donor.

See how many names are in yours at YourNameSaves.org , and then easily register to be a donor, turning the metaphor into a reality.  Then, post to social media and invite your friends and family to do the same.

But, why stop there?  Share YourNameSaves.org with all the people in your circle, like co-workers, fellow congregants, neighbors, and classmates.  Email your favorite celebrity, news personality or sports figure and ask them to participate.

Having a holiday party?  Offer a festive prize for the person who has the most names!

It’s easy, free and takes only a few moments but could save the life of someone whose name is on the transplant waiting list.  What’s in a name? The gift of life, that’s what!




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We Just Turned 9 Million!

There is cause to celebrate!

That’s right! The Donate Life Texas donor registry is celebrating the lifesaving commitment of 9 million Texans who have now joined the donor registry.

Since it was created in 2005, the Donate Life Texas (DLT) donor registry has been steadily growing thanks to generous Texans who understand the lifesaving difference each donor makes to the lives of those in need of a transplant.  Registering with DLT provides the legal consent for donation and is an easy and convenient way for people to make their decision to donate known after they pass away.

Building anything on this scale takes the work of multitudes of dedicated people. DLT relies several partners who each play a critical role in making donor registration easy and convenient.

Texas Lawmakers
The donor registry was created by and remains part of Texas state statutes. During the 2015 session, Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Dist. 21)  and Rep. John Zerwas M.D. (R – Dist. 28) championed legislation that has, among other things, allowed DLT to use mobile technology to register more people more quickly and in more places than ever before.

Texas Department of Public Safety, Driver License Division
Each and every Texan who applies for or renews a state driver license or ID card is given the opportunity to register with Donate Life Texas as a donor.  This single step relies on the support hundreds of DPS employees and is responsible for roughly 97% of all donor registrations.

Donor Family Members, Transplant Recipients, Living Donors & Other Advocates
From health fairs and community events to school rooms and beyond, an army of volunteer advocates are essential to educating the public about the need for donation and the importance of registration.

Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), Eye and Tissue Banks
In Texas, 15 Donate Life Texas organizations perform the organ, eye and tissue recovery procedures. These dedicated professionals are also the ones who work closely with donor families to guide them through the process of their loved one’s donation.

The Texas Association of Student Councils and the Texas Academy of Physician Assistants
This year, both TASC and TAPA have adopted Donate Life Texas and donor registration as statewide initiatives for their members.  This means that young leaders across the state will be learning about the rising need for transplants and the importance of donor registration. They will also be hosting Unite4Life campaigns on campuses, at events and in hospitals throughout the state.  The Unite4 Life portal offers community organization and individuals access to everything needed to host a registration drive, including educational resources, registration drive materials and the ability to create a custom campaign page.

9 million registered donors is a lifesaving start.

So far this year, 327 people have received organ transplants thanks to registered donors in Texas and thousands more have been given the gift of sight through cornea and ocular tissue transplants.  And, each year in the U.S., more than a million people receive donor tissue for a wide variety of medical needs ranging from orthopedic surgery to burn recovery.

Having 9 million registered donors in Texas helps make these medical miracles possible, but we still have more to do.  Simply put: The number of people needing transplants is growing.  The number of potential donors is not.

Thanks to medical breakthroughs, more more lives than ever can be saved by treatments that rely on donor organs and tissues.  Also, the growing prevalence of diabetes and heart disease have increased the number of people on the organ transplant waiting list since these conditions can often only be cured by a transplant.

However, also due to medical advances, fewer people are passing away from stroke and traumatic brain injury, the two most common causes of death which allow organ donation to occur. In fact, fewer than 2% of all deaths occur in ways that allow for organ donation.  Of the 178,000+ people who passed away in Texas in 2013, only about 3,500 were potentially eligible for organ donation.  This number then drops even further if consent is denied or if the organs are not clinically viable for transplantation.

Donor registration matters!

Registering with Donate Life Texas records a person’s legally-binding decision to be a donor so it can be known by the right people at the right time to save lives.  In the simplest terms, donor registration helps ensure that every transplantable organ can become a gift of life.

So, how can you help?

  • Talk with your friends and family about donation and encourage them to register.
  • Find a Donate Life Texas Organization in your area and become a volunteer advocate.
  • Make a financial gift to support the Donate Life Texas donor registry.
  • Share your Donate Life Story on the Donate Life Texas website.
  • When applying for or renewing your driver license or ID, tell the DPS office staff why donation is important to you.

Most of all, THANK YOU for registering to Donate Life!  Each of us are one in 9 million, but to the person waiting for a transplant, you could be their one Donor Hero.

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National Donor Sabbath, Nov. 11-13

Donate Life Texas invites you to join in celebrating the National Donor Sabbath this November 11-13.  This national observance is a time for people of all religions to honor those who have given the precious gift of organ, eye and tissue donation. Every year during this special time, donation and transplant organizations work closely with faith communities to bring the message of donation to congregations nationwide.

Faith plays a significant role in the decision to register as a donor. All major religions support organ, eye and tissue donation, and believe it to be a final act of kindness and generosity. Many faith leaders focus on the gifts of hope passed to others by supporting donation and transplantation. Professionals in the health care community bring awareness to all worship groups across the nation.

While religions differ in many ways, the commonality among all of them is the sharing of positive, inspiring messages that instill hope.   The National Donor Sabbath provides an opportunity for faith communities to share their views and join in the conversation.



Download these National Donor Sabbath graphics to post to your own social media or share with your house of worship for their website or social media.

Donor Sabbath Facebook Post

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DLT Honorees with NASCAR’s Joey Gase

For Donate Life Texas and NASCAR driver Joey Gase, this weekend’s race is about more than a checkered flag and the roar of the crowd.  It’s about the people whose lives have been touched by organ, eye and tissue donation.  We remember the Donor Heroes who have given the gift of life to others in their passing.  We celebrate the transplant recipients who make each day of their second chance count.  And, we hope for The Call to come for those still on the transplant waiting list.

With that in mind, the Donate Life Texas, Joey Gase, Jimmy Means Racing and GoFas Racing are proud to announce the names and faces that will ride the track with Joey during this weekend’s races.  May the stories of these Donate Life Texas Honorees inspire others to learn about the lifesaving difference Donor Heroes make possible, the growing need for transplants and the importance of donor registration.

 #52 and #32 Donate Life Texas Honorees, Fall 2016

Pictured, left to right below:

  • Tracey Lyons, Outstanding STA Volunteer, Dallas
  • Reann Medel, Transplant Recipient
  • John Bassett, Donor Hero
  • Jesse “Big Dog” Castruita, Donor Hero
  • Jamie Johnson, Outstanding STA Volunteer, East Texas Region
  • Chris Elder, Donor Hero
  • Mary Jo Gase, Donor Hero


  • Joseph Wells, Donor Hero
  • Sue Needle, Transplant Recipient
  • Keegan Smith, Donate Life Friend


reannmedel johnbassett






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National DPS Appreciation Celebration 2016

This week, Donate Life America (DLA) and the Donate Life State donor registries are recognizing the extraordinary efforts and commitment of the Driver License Divisions of the country’s Departments of Public Safety and Motor Vehicles for their steadfast support of organ, eye and tissue donor registration.

September 19-23 has been designated as National Donate Life DPS / DMV Appreciation Week. However, in true Lone Star style, the Texas state observance is bigger and spans the entire month of September.

Since 2005, the Texas Department of Public Safety has partnered with the Donate Life Texas registry to give Texans the power to save lives by registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. Each day since then, the men and women of the DPS Driver License Division have asked every single customer nine potentially lifesaving words – “Would you like to register as an organ donor?”

These nine words may not seem like a big deal. But, to a person waiting for a transplant, they can be the difference between life and death.
Since the creation of the Donate Life Texas registry, 962 donors registered through Donate Life Texas have made 3,278 organs available for transplant patients. In addition, thousands of people have been touched by the equally precious gifts of registered cornea and tissue donors.
That means that hundreds of families are grieving a terrible loss but can be comforted knowing their loved one’s final, heroic act gave others a second chance through donation. Those precious gifts directly touched the lives of tens of thousands of people as well as their families and loved ones for generations to come.

Donation is about life. Whether the gift is organs, corneas or tissue, it’s about all the possibilities a second chance can bring. And, in an ever-growing number of cases, it’s journey that begins with a conversation that started right here, with nine powerful words at a Texas Department of Public Safety’s Driver License office.
On behalf of Texas donor families, organ transplant recipients, those who have been given the gift of sight and those healed by tissue donations, Donate Life Texas and our team of organ, eye and procurement organizations are proud to announce the first-ever National Donate Life DPS Appreciation Celebration in honor of the people whose daily efforts play such a vital role in making lifesaving transplants possible.


Learn more about the National Donate Life DPS / DMV Appreciation Campaign through Donate Life America.

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Save Lives with Your iPhone

Apple® and Donate Life America are bringing the donor registration process to your fingertips. iOS 10, the biggest release ever of the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, is available today, September 13, 2016. iOS 10 allows iPhone users to register their decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor directly in the Medical ID tab within the iPhone Health app.

Through a simple sign up process, iPhone users can learn more and take action with just a few taps. All registrations submitted from iPhone are sent privately and securely to the National Donate Life Registry managed by Donate Life America. The ability to quickly and easily become a nationally-registered donor will enable people to carry their decision with them wherever they go.

Donor registration through the Medical ID tab of the Health app also provides the option to easily share your donation decision with family and friends via text, email, Facebook, or Twitter.

The ability to quickly and easily become a nationally-registered donor is a complement to registration through the state’s Donate Life Texas organ, eye and tissue donor registry. Both registrations can be accessed by and will be honored by donation professionals nationwide.

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