Local Organ Donor Reat Griffin Underwood to be Featured on Donate Life Rose Parade Float
Now in its 14th year, the Donate Life Rose Parade float is the centerpiece of a national effort of more than 50 organizations that have teamed up to reach a broad audience with the simple, life-giving message that organ, eye, and tissue donation saves and heals lives.
Among the donors to be featured on the float is Reat Griffin Underwood, who was tragically killed in a hate crime outside of the Jewish Community Center in 2014. Reat's portrait is one of the 60 floral portraits, or floragraphs, featured on the float that will appear in the historic New Year's Day parade.
On Thursday, Dec. 8, Reat's parents, brother, grandmother and other family members will gather at the offices of Boyer & Corporon Wealth Management in Overland Park to put the final pieces on the actual floragraph before it is sent back to California to be placed on the float. The media is invited to attend this meaningful event at 4 p.m. and see the floragraph.
The 2017 Pasadena Tournament of Roses theme, "Echoes of Success," tells the story of how our character has developed through the selfless contributions of others and celebrates their inspirational gifts. This year's float, Teammates in Life, recognizes a total of 96 honorees on a spectacular Polynesian catamaran, including Reat. Just under one year before Reat's untimely death, the 14-year-old had signed the back of his driver's permit to be an organ donor. Reat's donation was coordinated by the Midwest Transplant Network.
Lois Foxen, a friend and client of Reat's mother, Mindy Corporon, is sponsoring Reat's floragraph. Their relationship has spanned 20 years. Lois' late husband, Gary Foxen wrote this quote on April 17, 2001: "I have been trying to find a way to repay society for this wonderful gift (of life)" and then the Foxens became the originators and founders of the OneLegacy Donate Life Rose Parade Float. The Donate Life Rose Parade Float will mark its 17th anniversary in January.
Corporon is finding all of these connections meaningful. Gary Foxen received his lung transplant in 1999 - the same year Reat was born. Reat lost his life in April 2014 and Gary died just months later in November after surviving 15 years with a lung transplant.
"I attended Gary's life celebration in late 2014 and realized that his lung and Reat survived life the same amount of time. It was at this event when Lois told me she wanted to sponsor Reat in the Rose Bowl Parade. I cried," Corporon said.
"Of course, my firm and I have watched the parade and looked for the Donate Life float every year since inception in 2004. And now, very bitter sweet, we will be present and watch as Reat is memorialized with many others who were generous enough to donate part of themselves for others to have a better life or life at all."
Lois Foxen, a resident of California, was able to complete 95 percent of Reat's floragraph. The family received the floragraph in Overland Park so that they can put the finishing touches on it before it is secured on the float in late December.
In addition, MTN sponsored the floragraph of Heather Denise Reed-Flynn of Kansas City, MO, who died as the result of a stroke.
The float will be propelled by a team of 24 organ, eye, and tissue transplant recipients rowing in unison with strength gained from their donors. The sails of the vessel feature 60 floral portraits of donors - including that of Reat and Reed-Flynn - interwoven with Polynesian designs and patterns. Just as the donors' gifts empower the lives of others, the sails help power the catamaran on its journey. Twelve living donors and recipients, including a "kidney chain" of three living donors and their three recipients, will walk alongside the float carrying flowers in celebration of the life they have given to others and the quality of life they continue to enjoy themselves.
In the United States today, there are more than 120,000 people currently waiting for a lifesaving organ, and hundreds of thousands more, whose lives could be healed through eye and tissue transplantation. A single organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and heal 100 more.
About Reat Underwood
When Reat Griffin Underwood was a precocious two-year-old, he could recite Eric Carle books. Even then, he loved to sing and perform. His theatre career began at the age four. Reat auditioned for and received roles in more than 10 stage productions during his lifetime. As a high school freshman, he was accepted to the Kansas City Starlight Theatre Program, "Starlight Stars." He also offered his time as a volunteer in the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection KIDS-COR program, especially in the baby/toddler room. On his way to an audition for a high school singing competition called KC SuperStar at the Jewish Community Center, Reat and his grandfather were tragically ambushed as victims of a hate crime. Although Reat lost his life in the ambulance, he was still able to donate the gift of life to others and inspire the formation of SevenDays to help heal through love. SevenDays 2017 will take place April 18-24 with a focus on interfaith dialogue and spreading kindness to counter evil and hate. More information is available at www.givesevendays.org.
Here is a video link about the float and Reat's floragraph: https://www.yousendit.com/download/cUJVZHltSyt6NFBxYk1UQw
About Midwest Transplant Network
The successful development of organ and tissue transplantation is one of the most extraordinary triumphs of modern medicine. Unfortunately, the ability to deliver this miracle is limited by a severe shortage of donors. Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) is the community's connection to organ and tissue procurement and public awareness exclusively for Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri. MTN is a federally certified not-for-profit Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) and has been committed to providing quality results in all facets of transplant and procurement services since 1973. For additional information about MTN, please visit mwtn.org.