Organ donors and families honored at Rose Parade

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Two local families who turned tragedy into hope will be featured in the 126th annual Rose Parade. (WPVI)

Two local families who turned tragedy into hope will be featured in the 126th annual Rose Parade Thursday in Pasadena, California.

The big parade takes place before the Rose Bowl football game.

Both families were invited by the 'Gift of Life' donor program.

Their loved ones will be honored on the 'Donate Life America' float.

It's one of the prominent floats in the parade.

Both mothers told me they felt overwhelmed but excited for the experience.

Mary Smith and Joan Spiers share something no mother even wants to think about.

Both lost their sons three years ago.

For Mary, her son Eric died in a car crash. He was 23.

"Eric was a lot of fun. He had a very warm and charming personality," Mary said.

For Joan, her son Kevin was 22. He died from a tragic fall.

"I said 100 Hail Mary's on the way, but I just knew in my heart that it was bad," Joan said.

Kevin's younger sister Lauren says he was always the life of the party.

"He was just fun to be around, loveable, making everyone smile," Lauren said.

Both families donated their loved ones' organs or tissue and bone.

The 27-year-old man who received Eric's heart wrote, expressing gratitude, and saying because of the transplant, he was able to see his daughter be born.

A woman named Arlinda, who received Eric's kidney and pancreas, met Mary and says the transplant saved her family.

"It gives us a sense of promise knowing Eric changed people's lives," Mary said.

Kevin's family says he always helped others so they knew it was the right decision.

He saved others by donating his corneas, tissues and heart valves.

"It's what Kev would have wanted. It's how he lived his life," Lauren said.

Now their pictures made with flowers and spices and their lives, along with other donors, will be honored at the Rose Parade New Year's Day in California.

Both families will be there for the celebration.

"So overwhelmed, but totally excited that we're going," Joan said.

"It's just heartwarming and I am going to cherish it forever," Mary said.

And it's always a good idea to talk to your loved ones about organ donation.

You can also make your wishes known by signing up to become an organ donor online.

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healthhealthcheckhealthorgan donationsrose parade
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