Organ donor to be honored at Rose Bowl Parade
By ZACHARY FITZGERALD
A Stephensville native and Morgan City High School graduate who died 10 years ago in a boating accident will be honored as an organ donor by having his portrait displayed on a float at the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day.
Travis Rhodes, a native of Stephensville and a 1988 Morgan City High School graduate, died in a boating accident in 2003 while practicing in his new racing boat on False River. He was living in Breaux Bridge at the time of his death.
His portrait will be displayed on the Donate Life float as a floragraph, which is made of organic materials, such as coffee, rice or seeds, Rhodes’ widow, Renee Rhodes said. “Being up there with 81 other floragraphs seen by the world is just a feeling you really can’t put into words,” she said.
Everyone on the Donate Life float is there for the same reason, either as a family member of a deceased love one who was a donor or as a recipient of donor organs, Renee Rhodes said.
Renee Rhodes, who now lives in North Carolina, said her husband always wanted to race boats. Travis Rhodes was a registered organ donor and donated his corneas and tissues. However, he could not donate any other organs because they shut down when he drowned and could not be saved, Renee Rhodes said.
He donated his tissue, such as long bones, skins and veins, Renee Rhodes said. “All of the tissue can help over 50 to 75 people, either as a burn victim or any type of heart surgery.”
Travis Rhodes originally was unsure whether he wanted to be an organ donor, but changed his mind after his son was born in 2000, Renee Rhodes said. “On our 10th (wedding) anniversary, we were going out of town on a cruise, and that’s when the subject basically came up again, and after having our son basically changed his mind about organ donation. If our child needed a transplant of some kind, he would want someone else to do the same for his child,” Renee Rhodes said. “We decided that if anything happened to either one of us, we would both be organ donors.”
The Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency approaches families over the phone for tissue donors and in person for organ donors after their relatives have died, Renee Rhodes said.
Renee Rhodes took some time off work after her husband died and eventually decided to start volunteering with the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, which she did for about eight months. She then began working with the organization as a community liaison telling her husband’s story seven times a day, four days a week while spreading the word about organ donation, she said.
Renee Rhodes has spoken at Morgan City High School as well as the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs about her husband’s story. She has been a member of the Donate Life Rose Bowl Parade Float committee and will attend the parade this year for the fifth or sixth time, she said.
“Having his floragraph on the Rose Bowl, it’s just a wonderful way to end the 10th year anniversary of his death,” Renee Rhodes said. “It’s such an honor for him to be a part of this on such a level. The Rose Bowl is seen by 70 million people across the world.”
Being part of the group is bittersweet, Renee Rhodes said. There may be up to 600 people on the Donate Life float, she said.
“We’re all one, big family. It’s just an emotional time for everyone involved. We’re able to honor our loved ones and know that the world won’t forget them … To be able to participate in something so grand on such a grand scale, it’s just a huge, wonderful opportunity for his son, and myself, and Travis’ family that are attending and those that are going to be watching on TV.”
Travis Rhodes’ mother, Rosemary Rhodes of Stephensville, said her son Greg and his family are going to the parade. Rosemary Rhodes said her oldest son Travis’ death devastated the family because everyone in the family was close.
“Only parents that have to lose a child to something like that can understand the feeling you go through,” she said.