AREA NEWSThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Ossining Woman to Ride on Tournament of Roses Parade Float

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Mary Wu
Mary Wu

On Jan. 2, while 47 million people across the U.S. watch the televised Tournament of Roses Parade, one northern Westchester resident will watch it up close, from a float, in fact.

Mary Wu, a 29-year-old Ossining resident, has been selected as one of the 28 riders for the Donate Life float.

“I am excited, humbled and honored,” said Wu who described herself as being a blender of emotions since finding out she was selected as one of the riders.

A two-time kidney transplant recipient, Wu received her first transplant at the age of four for chronic kidney failure and then received her second kidney when she was 11 years old.

The 2012 Rose Parade’s theme, “Just Imagine…” and the 2012 Donate Life float bearing the message of, “One More Day,” are appropriately symbolic of a new year’s hope combined with the celebration of life engendered by a colorful parade’s music and gaiety.

Janet Ocasio clearly sees the dual symbolism in the float’s theme. “When you receive an organ, it gives you one more day and beyond. But when you are waiting for an organ donation – on the waiting list – it feels like an endless wait,” Ocasio said.

Ocasio received a liver transplant in 1998 for a rare liver disease after spending 13 years on a waiting list. Now 59, she is co-president of the Transplant Support Organization, a volunteer support organization based in Briarcliff Manor that serves five New York counties, including Westchester.

Wu has chronicled her anticipation of the upcoming event in a blog titled, “The Countdown.” Despite her excitement about the parade, she is quick to focus attention on the bigger picture. According to data from the New York Organ Donor Network, there are more than 8,000 people in the greater New York metropolitan area waiting for an organ transplant.

“Organ donation is still a sensitive topic for many people. It’s so important to have a discussion with your family and make your wishes known,” Wu noted.

The Donate Life float will be decorated with giant floral clocks and 72 memorial floral portraits honoring deceased donors. The float riders, whose ages range from 17 to 67, represent a cross section of the organ donation community ― organ and tissue transplant recipients, the families of deceased donors and living organ donors.

“I am looking forward to meeting the other float riders,” said Wu and named several of them, including Roxanna Green, the mother of nine-year-old organ donor Christina-Taylor Green. Green died in the Tuscon shooting in January that killed six and injured numerous others, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)

Wu’s participation is sponsored by the University Kidney Research Organization (UKRO), a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization. This is the first time UKRO has sponsored a float rider.

“Mary impressed us as being a wonderful representative for kidney donation and working to find a cure for kidney disease,” remarked Ron Taubman, UKRO’s chief financial officer. UKRO’s mission is to support medical research related to the prevention, treatment, and eradication of kidney disease.

In Pasadena next week, Wu will participate in a number of events, including working on the float decorations. Bryan Stewart, chairman of the Donate Life float committee, described how a community comes together over a period of days or weeks to decorate the floats. This year’s Donate Life float will be decorated with organic dried materials that include corn husks, straw flowers, lettuce seeds, various kinds of beans. The fresh flowers will be added early on the morning of the parade.

“My hope is that people will see what we have created and be moved by it,” Stewart, who is also vice president of communications at OneLegacy, a Los Angeles area nonprofit organ and tissue organization, said.

The local organ transplant community will be cheering Wu’s participation on the parade day.

“We are all going to be watching. We are so excited for her,” Ocasio said and added, “I think Mary is a unique and marvelous human being with a tremendous heart. She is so committed to this cause.”

The Parade will air on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, at 11 a.m. EST on the network stations ABC and NBC.

By Sherrie Dulworth

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