By Isiah REYES
Local residents from Glendale and La Crescenta will be honored during today’s Rose Parade.
Antonia Gonzalez, a La Crescenta resident, will be one of 15 float riders on Kaiser Permanente’s 10th Rose Parade float, titled “Together We Thrive.” It will be dedicated to the Special Olympics World Games. Gonzalez has been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 20 years.
“It’s awesome,” said Gonzalez about being on the float. “It’s a chance of a lifetime. I feel blessed I was chosen out of quite a few people.”
Gonzalez has won multiple gold, silver and bronze medals in track and field, soccer, and bowling.
The float will feature a sculptured reproduction of the World Games torch sitting atop a rotating replica of the World Games logo. The Special Olympics will be in Los Angeles for nine days beginning July 25.
Also being honored at the 2015 Rose Parade is Maria Santana, who was born in Leon, Nicaragua. She was a nurse for more than 40 years and lived in Glendale. Santana will be one of 72 organ, eye, and tissue donors to be honored as living legacies by the Donate Life float.
On June 30, 2011, Santana was rushed to the hospital with a brain aneurysm. She survived six high-risk surgeries but then suffered a head trauma at the rehab facility. She was pronounced brain dead on Sept. 8, 2011.
Her son Alex Parajon made the decision to donate her organs with the help of Donate Life, a nonprofit that works to increase awareness of organ donation.
“In my example, I never knew about organ donation at all,” said Parajon. “So when my mother passed away in 2011, I was approached and they asked me if I wanted to donate my mother’s organs. So I had to do my research based on my religion, my culture, and my country. And at the end of the day, everything came out positive in that it was a blessing to do organ donation.”
Santana helped the lives of four people by her donations, which included both her kidneys, her lungs, and liver.
The Donate Life float will have 30 riders and 12 living donors, who will walk alongside the float. Each year, the Donate Life float features memorial “floragraphs” that honor deceased organ, eye and tissue donors nationwide. The artistic portraits are all decorated in whole or in part by the honorees’ loved ones. Only organic materials, such as spices, seeds, and crushed flowers, are used to create floragraphs.
“The families of the donors keep on remembering their loved ones as the years go by and we all have a story to share,” Parajon said. “[For] the people who have either donated organs, are living donors, or recipients who receive an organ, their story is never-ending.”
“The Never-Ending Story” of hope, giving, and life is the theme of the 2015 Donate Life Rose Parade float.