TERRE HAUTE —
An 11-year-old Riley boy whose organ donation after his death helped save the lives of others will be honored as part of the Donate Life float in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
The Indiana Organ Procurement Organization submits one donor to be honored on the float, and in 2014, it will be Noah Worthington, who died in a car accident in May 2011. His image will be featured on a memorial floragraph portrait made of organic materials.
“I think it’s pretty awesome,” said Noah’s dad, Wil Worthington. “To be honored like this is really special.”
A total of 81 organ, eye and tissue donors will 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 donors come from 34 states, Korea and Taiwan.
Noah died May 7, 2011, after a car accident on Old Riley Road. Cale Roberts, Noah’s best friend, also died in the accident. The boys were on their way to a high school baseball game.
When Noah was declared brain dead in an Indianapolis hospital, his parents made the decision to donate their son’s organs, which went to three children and one adult.
Wil and Rhena Worthington have met one of the recipients, who received Noah’s heart; her name is Greer. The families have visited on different occasions and have formed a close bond. When they’re with Greer, “It’s like we’re being with Noah a little bit,” Rhena said.
The Alabama family reached out to the Worthingtons, Wil said. “They wanted to meet us. We said yes.”
The decision to donate Noah’s organs was difficult, but the Worthingtons know they made the right decision. Noah “has helped save the lives of four people,” Wil said.
The Worthingtons, who have a 15-year-old daughter, Abby, also have had their lives blessed with one more child — 14-month-old Maze — and another child is on the way, due in April.
The family misses Noah. “We miss him every single day,” Wil said. “But we’ve decided we won’t let tragedy take us down. We’ll look ahead.”
The Worthingtons now volunteer with IOPO to help promote organ donation, and Wil has given several talks.
When they were first asked about donating Noah’s organs, the Worthingtons initially said no. “We had never thought about organ donation; we never thought anything like this would happen,” Wil said.
But after the couple talked about it, they decided it was the right thing to do. While they couldn’t get Noah back, his organ donation would give others the gift of health and life.
Through organ donation, tragedy can become “something beautiful,” Wil said.
Rhena described Noah as “the coolest kid. He was talented at everything he did,” including art, music, writing and sports. “He played the piano beautifully,” his mom said.
He loved the outdoors and would trek through the woods every chance he could get. He was a member of the Riley All Stars Baseball team and had been a fifth-grade student at Riley Elementary.
The Indiana Organ Procurement Organization is part of the national organization Donate Life, which has a large float in the Rose Bowl Parade each year.
Kim Charles, IOPO special events coordinator, praised the Worthingtons’ efforts to support organ donation. When Wil speaks about Noah and the type of child he was, as well as the family’s decision to donate his organs, “It is inspirational,” she said.
In selecting Noah as Indiana’s donor for the 2014 float, “we wanted to give back to the family and also to honor Noah,” Charles said.
The floragraph will be in Terre Haute Dec. 1, and it will arrive nearly finished. Noah’s friends and family will be able to finish the floragraph before it returns to Pasadena. The public will have an opportunity to view it from 4 to 6 p.m. that day at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Noah’s mom, dad and sister will travel to Pasadena Dec. 27 through Jan. 2 with a contingent from IOPO. They will attend some events, work on assembling the float and watch the parade in reserved seating.
The float also will include 30 transplant recipients who will ride on it and by 12 living donors who will accompany them on foot along the five-mile route.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.