Rose Parade to celebrate life and legacy of Colorado organ donor

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — The Rose Parade is a New Year’s Day tradition that dates back to 1891. It will look different this year because of the pandemic, but the parade will continue to highlight important causes. That includes celebrating the life and legacy of a Coloradan, Jake Thompson.

“In March of 2009, he was in a car accident. Forty-eight hours after that, we were informed he was not going to make it, so we were kind of approached with the idea of organ donation on his behalf,” his twin sister Kathleen said.

The 21-year-old gave his organs to six other people, helping them, as well as his own family.

“We realized if you’re going through a tragedy and you can help somebody else, what a great thing to be able to do. That’s one of the biggest things we learned from it and what we want people to know about it. You can help others by becoming an organ, eye or tissue donor,” Kathleen said.

During the grieving process after Jake’s death, Kathleen and his best friend Cameron fell in love. They have since gotten married and have two young sons. All of them took part in decorating a float for the Rose Parade this year.

“Jake was a great guy, super funny, always the crowd pleaser. Everyone always wanted Jake there,” Cameron said. “

What’s really cool is now with our kids, we got Uncle Jake so I can still share my memories of him with our kids and she can share her memories with them. He’s still a part of our kids lives. They often ask what would Uncle Jake do?”

His entire family was able to finish decorating his picture that will be displayed on the “Donate Life” float in the Rose Parade celebration. Jake will be one of 21 hexagonal memorial portraits of organ donors featured in a floral sculpture.

“It’s a pictograph. It’s basically one of our favorite pictures of Jake that we all have. We got to help finish that floragraph and we did his eyebrows as a family. We used coffee grounds, one of the organic materials,” Kathleen said.

The tribute is meant to raise awareness about the importance of organ, tissue and eye donations. In Colorado, nearly 2,000 people are on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant. Nearly 115,000 are waiting nationwide.

Jake’s family started a non-profit called “Take Jake Project” to promote and educate people about the importance of organ, tissue and eye donation. They say at the time of a death, one donor can save up to eight lives and heal more than 75 people. 

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