A Place of Honor for Local Organ Donor
The family of Paul Rossmeissl will travel to Pasadena to see his depiction on the "Donate Life" float, honoring organ donors at the Tournament of Roses Parade.
When Paul Rossmeissl died suddenly following a cycling accident in 2006, his wife, Hedy, and daughter, Rachael Rossmeissl-Stone, struggled to find something positive to hold on to as they worked through their grief.
The answer came from Paul himself – the generosity of spirit that had moved him to become an organ donor. His kidneys and liver gave life to three people, and his bones and tissue assisted several others.
“I think Rachael and I felt like that was the only positive piece we could take out of this,” Hedy Rossmeissl said recently at her Herndon home. “So we got involved.”
Their involvement is with the Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC), which not only coordinates organ donation and serves recipients, but also cares for donors and their families.
The Rossmeissls have done much for the organization, with the thought that giving is its own reward. But this year brought a little bit more. The Rossmeissls will represent WRTC at the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade.
Each year the WRTC and its national partners sponsor a float, known as the “Donate Life” float, in the parade, said WRTC spokesman John Ogden. Donors from around the nation are selected to be depicted on the float, and the families of those donors receive an all-expenses paid trip to view the parade and participate in related activities.
Hedy and Rachael will help to put the finishing touches on the float, attend the Tournament of Roses Parade, and also attend the Rose Bowl football game. In yet another bittersweet coincidence, one of the teams in this year’s game will be the Badgers of the University of Wisconsin.
“Both Paul and I attended Wisconsin,” Hedy said. “Going to that game will be pretty special.”
As they have done all along, Hedy and Rachael included their supporters as they prepared for this event. Earlier in December, they brought Paul’s “floragraph,” – the depiction of him, all in flowers and other organic materials as parade rules require – to Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Reston and to The Bike Lane in Reston Town Center. Both organizations have helped them in their fundraising efforts for WRTC.
Each spring, Hedy and Rachael partner with the Bike Lane for Paul’s Ride for Life, a bike ride now featuring several hundred riders, to benefit WRTC. Rachael knits shawls for organ recipients, and Hedy is a member of the WRTC Speaker’s Bureau, spreading the message of organ donation.
“In combination of all those things, Paul’s sacrifice, and our activity with the WRTC, we were chosen to be this year’s reps,” Hedy said. “We were so surprised and honored.”
The 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade, featuring “One More Day,” The Donate Life float with Paul Rossmeissl’s floragraph, takes place Jan. 2, at 11 a.m. EST. It will air live on HGTV.