Rose Parade Float Decoration

Joz decorates the 2008 Donate Life Rose Parade floatIn just a couple of days millions of people around the world will be watching the Rose Parade straight from the streets of Pasadena.

Those Rose Floats don’t decorate themselves, so every year thousands of volunteers donate their time and energy to help prepare the floats for their glorious moments in the world’s view. With the parade being just a couple of days away, the volunteers are bustling to get the fresh flowers and final touches done. But despite the frenzy that happens in the week before the parade, decoration of the work starts a month in advance with the application of dry decorations, which is a lot less “glamorous” than doing live flowers.

When I was in high school, I volunteered my winter break time toward decorating the Kiwanis Float since I was a very active member of Key Club. Well, it has been a long time since high school and this year I decided I would go back and give my time to a different organization that has become important to me: One Legacy/Donate Life.

It’s been a year and a half since my Dad passed away and last year was an extremely tough holiday season. It’s still hard, but this year has been better because Mom’s back from Taiwan and we were able to spend the holidays together.

One of the things we have been doing together is volunteering for One Legacy/Donate Life. At the time that it was all going on, I didn’t want to talk about it very much but our family made the decision to honor my father’s wishes to donate all my father’s organs and tissues so that our loss could possibly help another family in crisis. One of the things we stipulated is that we not want to know who the recipients were: even though some families don’t feel this way, to us a donation is a donation and we felt that the compassionate thing to do was to try and help someone else if we could.

The One Legacy/Donate Life folks have been absolutely wonderful and caring with us. They were so appreciative of the decision and have been following our family with kindness and caring, knowing that it was so hard to lose someone we loved so much. Throughout the past year, they have had many memorial events for organ donor families where we have met other families who have gone through similar situations as we have.

One of the things that has become a little easier to do over time is to talk about it. Whereas we were extremely private about our decision at the time that we made it, especially in this time of year of giving, we think about the gift that my father was able to give as an organ and tissue donor.

Did you know an organ donation could save the lives of eight people, and a tissue donation could enhance the lives of another 50 people? (If you are in California and want to find out more about how to sign up online to be an organ and tissue donor, visit

Last month, the One Legacy/Donate Life folks asked us to participate in the decoration of their annual Rose Parade Float on their first “dry decoration date” in the beginning of December. On this date, the “Ambassador” families (of those donors featured on the float) came to decorate the portraits of their loved ones. In some cases, donor families were introduced with recipient families: a very moving scene.

My Mom and I went down to Pasadena to volunteer our time toward the float and to also do a newspaper interview with the World Journal (Chinese Daily News). The interview and article was in Chinese, but it was published in the Sunday paper the next day. If you’re interested, here is the link to the article and picture of us (good luck translating it: Babelfish didn’t do a great job):

Spending the day with my Mom to decorate a float that honors organ and tissue donors was a really rewarding way to spend a day and I hope that I can manage to squeeze this in every year.

If you are interested in decorating next year’s floats (not necessarily the Donate Life float), keep your eye on the website at the Phoenix Decorating Company’s volunteer page.

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