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Rose Parade Honors the Gift of Life

Special Float is Tribute to Nebraska Family's Story of Organ Donation

OMAHA, Neb., Dec. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Without knowing what lay ahead for their young children 24 years ago, Milt and Janet Bemis enjoyed life with their active two-year-old Matthew, while the family of 14-month-old Lily watched helplessly as her liver failed from a deadly cancer.

In an instant, everything changed.

Matthew Bemis tragically drowned at a lakeside barbeque that summer day in 1984. But his parent's decision to donate his organs gave new life to little Lily, who received Matthew's liver. Today, the two families have an unimaginable bond - one that transcends loss.

"Our bond will last a lifetime, like the gift of life that accompanied it," says the now grown Lily Allen. "No one will forget Matthew, and the selfless decision his parents made on his behalf."

The gift of life is the subject of a breathtaking float at the 120th annual Rose Parade taking place on New Year's Day, 2009 in Pasadena, California. Thanks to the Nebraska Organ Recovery System, UCLA Medical Center and Donate Life, an alliance of local and national organizations dedicated to inspiring others to donate life through organ, eye and tissue donation, Matthew and Lily's story will be celebrated on the Donate Life parade float.

Young Matthew Bemis' photo will be one of 38 "floragraphs" on the float, representing 38 people across the country that became organ and tissue donors. Riding along will be 26 organ recipients - including Lily Allen of Syracuse, who recently married on the 24th anniversary of receiving Matthew's healthy liver.

Matthew's parents, Milt and Janet Bemis of David City, will also travel to Pasadena for this nationally televised spectacular.

Floragraphs, according to Rose Parade officials, are life like portraits created with organic materials including flowers. The float itself will carry more than 1,000 roses with personal messages of love, gratitude and hope to a donor, recipient or transplant candidate.

Sadly, almost 100,000 people in the U.S. await a life-saving organ transplant, and more than 28,000 lives are saved each year through organ donation. Daily, almost 20 people die waiting for the organs needed to save their lives.

According to Nebraska Organ Recovery System spokesperson Stephanie Lochmiller, organ donation creates a lasting impact, far beyond the surgical procedure itself. In Matthew and Lily's case, two families that were once unknown to each other have bonded in deep friendship. In fact, Milt and Janet attended Lily's wedding this past summer.

"Losing a child is extremely difficult," says Milt Bemis. "Talk with your family now about organ donation - make your wishes known. Celebrating this cause on the Rose Parade float is a beautiful way to educate the public, and a proven way to save lives."

Nebraska Organ Recovery System (NORS) is the federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO) for Nebraska and Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Formed in 1977, NORS is a not-for-profit agency independent of any hospital or transplant center. For information visit

SOURCE Nebraska Organ Recovery System
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