Wis. family takes part in Rose Parade

Parade float serves as memorial to organ, tissue donors

Published On: Dec 31 2012 09:17:35 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 01 2013 12:11:40 PM CST
PASADENA, Calif. -

A Mukwonago, Wis., family is participating in the Rose Parade in honor of a family member who died but helped others by being an organ donor.

The Rose Parade started in the late 1800s as a way to showcase Pasadena's charm, and 124 years later, the goal is the same. But the floats, the route and the audience are bigger.

Caitlyn Persinger and her family flew to Pasadena on Saturday and will stay through Tuesday, when she rides in the annual Rose Parade.

"It's going to be a long process and we're going to be working pretty much all through the night," Persinger said, while working on floats for the parade.

Five years ago, her brother, Chris, was killed in a car crash. His decision to be an organ donor helped 64 people, including Caitlyn.

"I got to receive his final tissue, and I get to play sports because of him and have him with me and it's awesome," said Persinger, who tore her ACL playing soccer.

"Who would ever have thought of that, and it truly can come full circle," said mother Shelley Persinger.

Thirty-one more organ and tissue recipients and donors will be aboard the Donate Life Rose Parade float. Since 2004, the float has served as a memorial to organ and tissue donors and a platform for donor families, living donors and transplant recipients to encourage others to be organ donors.

"I'm holding my brother's picture, and I'll wave and it's going to be awesome, so I'm excited," Caitlyn Persinger said. "You can make a huge difference in the world just from choosing to be a donor. It comes full circle, and it actually helps the donor family; it helped my family recover from his loss, knowing that he helped that many people."

"The things you learn, the stories that are told, they are truly remarkable and amazing, and it kind of gives you a little sense of peace," Shelley Persinger said.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. CST. The float features two four-story-tall hearts.