Five Local Residents to Be Featured on Donate Life Rose Parade Float January 1 in Pasadena

Published : Friday, December 6, 2019 | 9:09 AM

Four local-area residents who were given a second chance at life and one two-time living donor will be part of the Donate Life Rose Parade float New Year’s Day in Pasadena. Now in its 17th year, the Donate Life float is the centerpiece of a national effort to reach a broad audience with the simple, life-giving message that organ, eye and tissue donation saves and heals lives.

Riding on the Donate Life float will be heart and kidney recipient Regina Armstrong, heart recipient Lavinia “Vinnie” Brooks, double lung recipient Terri Pilawa and heart recipient Annalesia Smallcomb. Walking next to the float will be kidney and bone marrow donor Heidi Miller and liver recipient Charles Pruitt.

Armstrong, 45, is a resident of Loma Linda. At age 12 she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, and in 1987 she received a heart transplant from a 16-year-old donor. In 2018 her kidneys started failing due to 30-plus years of taking anti-rejection medication, and that led to her receiving a kidney transplant on New Year’s Eve. She is being sponsored on the float by Cedars-Sinai.

Los Angeles resident Brooks, 57, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 1999. By 2004 the disease had progressed to congestive heart failure, which required a pacemaker to keep her alive. In 2014 her condition became critical, and in January 2015 she received a new heart after waiting on the transplant list for nearly seven months in the ICU at Keck USC Hospital. She is being sponsored on the float by OneLegacy.

Pilawa, 50, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2010. By 2012 her condition had worsened. She was listed for a double lung transplant, which she received in 2015 thanks to the kindness of a 22-year-old donor. A resident of Ontario, her presence on the Donate Life float is also being sponsored by OneLegacy for whom she serves as an ambassador, as does fellow rider Brooks.

Smallcomb, 19, had the same genetic predisposition as her father to a heart condition known as “familiar dilated cardiomyopathy,” which causes the left ventricle to become thin and weaken. After determining that her heart was functioning at only 9% of its capacity, the Cerritos resident received a successful heart transplant in 2013 at UCLA, which is sponsoring her participation in the 2020 Rose Parade.

Miller, 65, is a serial entrepreneur having founded Heidi’s Frozen Yozurt, Tight Assets and The World Newsstand. In 1991 Miller was a bone marrow transplant donor to a close friend and in 2017 was a kidney donor after discovering through social media that an acquaintance was dying from kidney disease after more than five years on dialysis. Miller, a resident of Laguna Beach, will be walking next to the Donate Life float in celebration for her compassion, optimistic spirit and kindness.

The Donate Life Rose Parade float is produced by OneLegacy, the largest organ, eye and tissue recovery organization in the world. The float is made possible thanks to more than 45 sponsoring donation, transplant, healthcare, and family care organizations and individuals who help make donation and transplant possible across the country. This year’s Donate Life Rose Parade float will include 70 participants from all around the nation, including 18 riders, eight walkers and 44 deceased donors who will each be honored with a floral portrait, or floragraph, proudly displayed on the float.

The 2020 Donate Life Rose Parade float, “Light in the Darkness,” will highlight the power of unity, light and love as celebrated during Southeast Asia’s Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, a celebration of light shining in the darkness. The many lives touched by donation embody the hope inherent in this festival.

As the world’s most visible campaign to inspire organ, eye and tissue donation, the Donate Life Rose Parade float inspires viewers to help the over 1 million people in need of organ, eye or tissue transplants each year. Register today to become an organ, eye or tissue donor by visiting

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