Journeys of the Heart: The Kallal Family's Journey to Pasadena
Posted January 9, 2013 in Donor Family News
As Patty Kallal described her week in Pasadena, California for the 2013 Rose Parade, her stories about the event capture the emotion and meaning surrounding the Donate Life float. But the most telling statement about its impact is her future plans to attend the parade. “My goal is to go out there again for a weekend in December and help work on a floragraph or the float,” she said after returning to her home in Jerseyville, Illinois.
Patty’s late husband, Mike “Popeye” Kallal, was one of 72 donors remembered with memorial floragraph portraits on the Donate Life float for the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade, themed “Journey’s of the Heart.” Mike’s floragraph was partially decorated in Pasadena before Patty and her family put the finishing touches on it in December at an event in Jerseyville.
She saw the finished floragraph in Pasadena on Sunday, December 30 at the Floragraph Family Brunch, an event specifically for the families of those honored on the float. Rosemary Rodriguez, who created Mike’s floragraph, was holding it. “I knew I would cry, but when I met Rosemary, that’s when I lost it,” Patty said. “I wanted to meet her. I knew she would get to know Mike through working on his picture.”
Patty – who attended the parade events with her three children, son-in-law, and two grandchildren – learned that Rosemary and her family began volunteering with the float after her son died. “The people who worked on the float, like the Rodriguez family … many of them lost a loved one,” Patty said.
Patty and her family walked to the Rosemont Pavilion, where the Donate Life float was created and housed, on Saturday. That’s when they first saw the float and placed on the float a rose dedicated to Mike. “Even walking there, you could feel this aura,” Patty said. “You felt the closeness, this bonding. Everybody there was so nice and so accommodating.”
In the meantime, she met many other people touched by organ and tissue donation, like the two families she sat with at the Donate Life Gala Dinner. One was a donor mother whose eight-year-old son donated his organs. The daughter of the other family at the table received his heart. “I expected to meet a lot of amazing people, and we did,” Patty said. “Amazing people, amazing stories.”
Another highlight was the float judging. The day before the parade, judges walk to each float, which is prepared just as it will be presented during the parade. “Everyone who will be on that float during the parade is on the float during judging,” Patty said. “It’s like a dress rehearsal.”
Then one member of each donor family stepped forward and formed a circle around the float as the song “You’ll Be in My Heart” by Phil Collins played. “The music was playing and everyone was singing,” Patty said. “It was very moving. It was a bond that brought everyone together.”