News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 31, 2013

Son’s generous act shown on national stage

Organ donor’s image is on Rose Parade float

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — On Tuesday, Wil, Rhena and Abby Worthington finally got to see a memorial portrait of their son and brother, Noah, on the Donate Life float that will be featured in today’s Tournament of Roses Parade.

“It’s beautiful,” Wil Worthington said. The floragraph, made of natural materials, is included on one of several large, decorative lanterns on the colorful float. The theme is “Light up the World.”

Eleven-year-old Noah became an organ donor after a May 2011 car accident; his parents made the decision to donate their son’s organs, which went to three children and one adult.

The Indiana Organ Procurement Organization submits one donor to be honored on the Donate Life float, and this year, it is Noah Worthington. He is one of 81 organ, eye and tissue donors nationwide to be honored with floragraphs on the float, which will be seen by millions nationwide on television and by those who attend the parade in person.

The Worthingtons traveled to Pasadena on Saturday and have been involved in various activities that have included working on the float. They are there with IOPO representatives and Jerry Sexton, an organ recipient from Kokomo, who will ride on the float.

“It’s very touching and a really special thing,” Wil Worthington said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “To be here representing Noah and what he stands for and to honor him in this way is something fabulous to our family.”

He’s grateful to IOPO and to friends in Terre Haute and Marshall, Ill., who have been so supportive, he said.

The Worthingtons have helped work on the float, cutting flowers and placing them on the float. They also placed roses dedicated to Noah in a Dedication Garden on the float.

The Worthingtons met the individuals who worked on Noah’s floragraph. One of them described how “she couldn’t find flowers good enough for his eyes,” Wil Worthington said. She called her grandmother on the East Coast, and her grandmother sent blue hydrangeas for Noah’s eyes.

“We said to her, ‘You nailed the eyes,’” Wil Worthington said. The family was impressed that the volunteers who made the floragraph took so much time and care with them.

On Tuesday afternoon, floats were to be judged, and recipients and donors’ families planned to make a big circle around the Donate Life float while it was judged. “Ours is the only float with a cause. I think that’s kind of neat,” Wil Worthington said.

The theme song for the float is, “I See the Light” from the Disney movie “Tangled.”

Wil Worthington said the song has special meaning for the family. “Every time we hear it, we think of Noah,” he said. In the movie, parents set off a lantern, in search of their daughter.

Wil Worthington believes that “what Noah did is something that lights up the world.” Noah served as a light and beacon to individuals “who have been waiting and have been in need and now are able to live their lives” because of his organ donation.

The Worthingtons attended a gala Monday night that honored the 81 loved ones featured in floragraphs, the 12 living donors who will walk in the parade and the 30 transplant recipients who will ride the float.

“It’s been quite an experience,” Wil Worthington said.

The family will be watching the parade today, eagerly awaiting the Donate Life float. “It will be touching,” Wil Worthington said.

This year, more than 7,700 roses adorn the deck of the 2014 float. The roses honor living and deceased donors, transplant recipients and candidates and those who died awaiting a transplant.

One of the roses was dedicated to Travis Smith on behalf of his parents, Jimmy and Tami, and his sister, Courtney. Travis, who died at age 19 in a car accident in January 2007, was a bone, tissue and cornea donor. The cornea went to a 5-year-old in New York, Tami Smith said.

The Smiths did not travel to Pasadena, but someone placed the rose in the Dedication Garden on their behalf. “I think organ donation is so important, and I’m a real advocate,” Tami Smith said.

The dedication read: “In memory of Travis James Smith. We love and miss you so much, Trav! We do find comfort in the fact you were able to help others through the gift of donation! We are forever proud of you … love to the moon and back. Mom, Dad & Court.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or