DEERFIELD, Ill., Sept. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- On January 1, 2011, the Donate Life float will roll through the streets of Pasadena reminding millions of viewers of the Rose Parade® to "Seize the Day" and register as organ donors in an effort to save lives. Aboard the float will be the five winners of the 2011 Astellas Ride of a Lifetime(SM) Contest, whose stories about how transplant changed their lives serve as an inspiration to others. Astellas Pharma US, Inc., is a top-level benefactor of the float for the sixth consecutive year and sponsors both the contest winners and more than 1,000 volunteer decorators.
"Astellas is committed to the Donate Life Rose Parade float because it provides such a meaningful and high-profile platform to promote organ donation," said Charlotte Berlin, Senior Product Director, Immunology, for Astellas. "We know that our winners' powerful and remarkable stories will touch others and prompt new registrants, and we are honored to work with them to help make that happen."
This year's float, themed "Seize the Day!," will feature colorful kites soaring in the wind to symbolize making the most of every moment to build dreams, friendships and memories with loved ones. The tails of the kites will be adorned with memorial "floragraph" portraits of deceased donors whose legacies lift the kites and the hopes of those in need of transplants.
A panel of judges selected the following five Ride of a Lifetime winners from nearly 200 entries:
Emmalyn Brown, 13, liver recipient from Athens, OH
Emmalyn says when she was nine, her best friend broke her arm and her twin sister broke her pinky, and both got lots of attention. Emmalyn hoped she'd break something or get sick so she wouldn't be invisible. Now she says, "be careful what you wish for." That same year, her liver suddenly failed and she went from being perfectly healthy to receiving a liver transplant in exactly two weeks. She spent time in the hospital, took medications that made her gain weight and endured countless blood draws, and her wish changed to just wanting to be normal again. Now, thanks to her successful transplant, she's back to the life of a normal teen and says she thanks everyone who is signed up as an organ donor, because they might save another girl like her.
Valen Cover, 27, kidney recipient from Auburn, CA
Valen says her body had been on a battlefield since the age of five, fighting against seizures, scoliosis surgery, pancreatitis and polycystic kidney disease (PKD). She says she won the war when she received a new kidney eight years ago, and now she uses her experiences to help educate others and fundraise for PKD and organ transplantation. Valen's story even inspired one author to write an award-winning biography titled "My Favorite American" to encourage and support others fighting diseases. She founded the South Central PA Chapter of the PKD Foundation.
Arbeny Davis, 21, kidney recipient from Memphis, TN
Arbeny was diagnosed with kidney disease at age 13. Her medications made her go from "a petite little girl to a blow fish" and she was teased at school. But her best friend since third grade, Kenesha, always had her back. While majoring in Dance Education at the University of Memphis, Arbeny went into end-stage renal failure and was placed on the transplant list. When no one in her family was a match, Arbeny's "guardian angel, Kenesha" once again came to her rescue and donated a kidney. Arbeny is now is an advocate for the transplant community and hopes to open a dance studio after graduating.
Scott Seetin, 30, kidney recipient from Kansas City, KS
Two years ago, Scott and his brother were going through the cross match process to donate a kidney to "the greatest mother in the world." As Scott waited for his blood test results, the doctor entered the room with a sad look and told him he could not donate because he needed a kidney as badly as his mother. His mother refused her other son's kidney saying that his brother should be Scott's donor. Soon after, his mother received a kidney from her brother and the following year, in 2009, Scott received his kidney from his brother. Now, the family talks about their experiences to inspire others to donate life.
Jennifer Shih, 35, heart recipient from Atlanta, GA
After 20 years of schooling and three years of pediatric residency to fulfill her dream of becoming a pediatric cardiologist, Jennifer's plans went awry five years ago when she started feeling tired and short of breath one night while on call. She performed an echocardiogram on herself and found fluid around her heart. She took herself to the ER and after a few hours, went into cardiac arrest. Within a week, she was told she would die without a heart transplant. After her transplant, she could no longer pursue pediatric cardiology because of the risk of infection exposure, so instead she became a pediatrician in the Neonatology department at Emory in Atlanta. She says her experience makes her a more empathetic doctor, and she started the Have a Heart Benefit Fund which raises money to fund patient care, education and research.
Beyond the Ride of a Lifetime contest winners, the Donate Life Rose Parade float will feature 20 other riders whose lives have been transformed by organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation. The float is coordinated by OneLegacy, the nonprofit, federally designated organ and tissue recovery organization serving the greater Los Angeles area.
"With this year's Rose Parade theme, Building Dreams, Friendships & Memories, matching so closely with the inspirations of donors, recipients and transplant professionals, we wanted to create a particularly memorable float that would resonate with people everywhere," explained Bryan Stewart, chairman of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float Committee and Vice President of Communications at OneLegacy. "Dreams, friendships and memories are built through life's little moments, including the joy and beauty of flying a kite with friends and family. We thank Astellas for their ongoing support of the life-saving mission embodied in Donate Life's annual Rose Parade participation."
For more information regarding the Astellas Ride of a Lifetime Contest or to read the 2011 winning essays, visit www.TransplantExperience.com; for information on organ donation and organ donation happenings, visit www.Facebook.com/DonateLife. To follow the Donate Life float's journey to New Year's Day 2011, visit www.donatelifefloat.org.
Astellas Pharma US, Inc., located in Deerfield, Illinois, is a U.S. affiliate of Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc. Astellas is a pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceutical products. The organization is committed to becoming a global category leader in focused areas by combining outstanding R&D and marketing capabilities. In the U.S., Astellas markets products in the areas of Anti-Infectives, Cardiology, Dermatology, Neuroscience, Transplant, and Urology. For more information about Astellas Pharma US, Inc., please visit our website at www.astellas.us.
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SOURCE Astellas Pharma US, Inc.