Since 2007, LifeCenter Northwest (LCNW) has honored an organ or tissue donor from our region on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. This year, 98 individuals with a connection to organ, eye, and tissue donation proudly represented it’s theme, “Treasure Life’s Journey”. Honorees included: 24 transplant recipients who rode on the float, 16 living donors walking the parade route beside it, and 58 deceased organ, eye, and tissue donors celebrated with floral portraits, or “floragraphs”, that were incorporated into the float design. Each of these individuals, touched in some way by the gift of life, demonstrated the momentous impact of organ, eye, and tissue donation.
This year, LifeCenter Northwest sponsored local donor Peleiupu “Leo” Leiataua, who gave the gift of life in 2013 at Swedish Medical Center-Cherry Hill, to be honored at the Rose Parade in Pasadena. Leo was known as the “gentle giant”. Standing at 6-foot-2, he seemed intimidating at first glance but always went out of his way to say hello to anyone he didn’t know and was well respected in his community. Kind and compassionate, Leo truly had a big heart, but he also struggled with cardiac problems his entire life. He passed away while waiting for a pacemaker. Because of his giving nature, his wife, Jacinta, knew that donation was the right choice for Leo. Prior to his death he told her, “If I can help save somebody, why not do it?” Leo saved two lives through the donation of his kidneys, a symbolic act as his mother passed away months prior while on the waiting list for a kidney, and just 16 months after his donation, Jacinta’s sister received a life-saving kidney transplant.
This fall, volunteers with Donate Life America and OneLegacy created Leo’s floragraph and sent it to LifeCenter Northwest for the finishing touches to be completed by his family and friends. On November 30, Leo’s community gathered to honor their friend and the gifts that he gave. The event was held at Swedish-Cherry Hill and was abundant in food, music, and family – the three things Leo loved the most. His cousins opened with a song and Jacinta along with their daughters, Francis and Syriah, shared loving memories of their husband and father. The night ended with Leo’s loved ones completing his floragraph, preparing it to be returned to Pasadena and placed on the Donate Life Float.
Over the New Year’s holiday, Jacinta and her girls traveled to Pasadena along with LCNW Donor Family Program Manager Ashlei Brooks to meet other donor families and recipients from around the nation and participate in events surrounding the Donate Life Float. Together the family watched as Leo’s life was honored in the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.