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Each year, ConnectLife sponsors a donor family or organ, eye, and tissue recipient to attend and participate in the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. This year, ConnectLife sponsored Dave Carlson to attend because of his continued support and activism surrounding the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation.   

Dave is a two-time cornea transplant recipient from Grand Island, New York. He received his two transplants in 1966 and 1970. Forever grateful to his donors for the gift of sight that made his quality of life possible, Dave has been an advocate for our mission to educate the community, inspire donation, and connect lives ever since.

Dave supports ConnectLife in all facets. He attends all of our events, is a voice out in the community, and was the perfect person to represent ConnectLife and Western New York in this year's Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Hear from Dave about his experience at the 2020 Rose Parade...

Dave Carlon Smiling at 2020 Rose Parade

To put in to words that express the feelings I had as a participant in this incredible journey is difficult. The donor families and recipients we met were lovely, affectionate people. Each had wonderful, heart-warming stories that made the theme of the float, “Light in the Darkness” so relevant. The “Ride of a Lifetime” was truly the most memorable and emotional experience of my life. Riders and walkers could feel the warmth and love expressed by the parade watchers as we traveled the parade route. It was extraordinary. When the judges entered and saw our float, two of them teared up at the beauty and what it represented. The float won the prestigious Judge’s Award for most outstanding design and dramatic impact.  

Dave Carlson and Katherine Carlson 2020 Donate Life Rose Parade Float    

Donate Life Rose Parade Float 2020

You can see the floragraph’s honoring those who, in passing, gave the gift of life. These floragraph photos were actually created by the donor families, using actual photographs and applying a gravel-like material to the photo. These were incredible in their detail. Once the float was fully decorated, a driver, inside the float had to travel 8 miles to the parade sit, on a freeway that was closed to all traffic except floats. I would have loved to see this but it occurred over night, starting at about 2:00am, and we had to be up and at the parade site by 5:00am.

Light in the Darkness Donate Life Float 2020

The beauty of our float was truly magnificent. The organization and the attention to detail by OneLegacy, on behalf of Donate Life, was amazing. We were given a timeline with the times and location of events. Some mandatory, others not so. Anyone who chose to not attend certain events truly missed something special. All were beautifully done.   

I hope that gives you an overview of just how amazing this trip was. Thank you, ConnectLife, for the Ride of a Lifetime. My family and I will never forget it.

Thank you, Dave, for taking us along on this ride with you and for your continued support of our mission here at ConnectLife! We are already looking forward to 2021. To learn more about Dave's story, click here. To see the full album of float decorating, walk participants, float judging, and parade day - click here.