Jorge Fernandez, who died while running in the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon in 2011, will be honored along with other organ and tissue donors on the 2014 Donate Life Rose Parade float.
Fernandez's life ended tragically when he collapsed and died near the finish line. His family made the difficult decision to donate his organs and tissues to help others, in the spirit of his giving nature.
"This decision for me personally was the easiest decision because it was who he was," said Cynthia Mendez, Jorge's former fiancee. "He was so giving that it was a no-brainer for me personally for him to do something like this, to become a tissue donor."
That legacy will be celebrated at the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, after Jorge was chosen to be memorialized on the Donate Life float.
"This family was willing to share Jorge with the world because he was a generous person and so they knew he'd want to continue giving and continue educating others," said Michelle Ramirez, bereavement coordinator for Allograft Resources, a tissue donor support organization.
Friday afternoon Jorge's floragraph was unveiled and family members added finishing touches. The portrait is made entirely of organic materials including flower petals, grain and even ground coffee beans for eyebrows.
"This was the first time that we saw it," said Mendez. "It made me a little emotional. I was a little surprised at how I felt."
Mendez, Ramirez and other family members will spend a week in Pasadena leading up to the parade, where they'll help decorate the float entitled "Light Up the World."
"He lit up my world," said Mendez. "He made it better when he came in it and he continues to make it better even though he's not here."
The float will feature images of other organ and tissue donors as well as recipients. The goal is to spread the message of the importance of organ and tissue donation.
"It makes it more personal when you know somebody from your hometown or somebody you know is affecting other people by becoming a tissue donor," said Mendez.
"I think it's a beautiful way to spread the message because you're actually sharing what your gift does," added Ramirez. "You're letting people know how people have benefitted. You're letting people know there are real lives out there that are being touched."
Mendez and Jorge's family also created a non-profit called Team Jorge to promote proper athletic training as well as create a scholarship for students interested in medical professions.