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Arkansans remembered at Rose Bowl Parade

The Donate Life Rose Parade Float will display 44 donors from across the country. (UAMS)

Two Arkansas organ and tissue donors will be remembered at the upcoming Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's Day.

On November 30, the families of Austin Elder and Melissa Owen were at a floragraph finishing ceremony held by ARORA and UAMS. A floragraph is a portrait made up of floral materials and seeds.

Melissa Owen was 38 when she passed away from a stroke following a brain aneurysm on Christmas Eve three years ago.

Melissa's parents', Paul and Becky Owens, were at the ceremony. Paul Owen thanked the people who make up the many moving parts for a transplant program.

“I appreciate all of you all in the roles you play in that,” Owen said. “Our daughter is not gone. She passed away three years ago, but she is still living. She’s living through three different women but especially through Yolanda. ”

Yolanda Harsah was the receiver of Melissa Owen's heart. Two other women received her kidneys.

A few years after the donation, the Owen's family received a letter from Harshaw showing her gratitude. They met soon after, and have been united ever since.

“She has a wall of family photos in her home,” Owen said. “Melissa is right there in the middle.”

Harshaw will be a rider on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float.

Austin Elder was 19 and had just finished his first semester of college. He passed away a week after falling 100 feet from a Newton County Bluff in 2012.

“He had signed up to be a donor,” his mother Gina Elder said. “It was so easy to honor that wish. It was typical Austin to want to help people in life and in death.”

Dr. Richard Turnage, UAMS’ Chief Executive Officer, said the transplant program is a cornerstone for the institution. The first kidney transplant was performed nearly 50 years ago. Since that time, Turnage said, UAMS has performed nearly 1,900.

The Donate Life Rose Parade Float will display 44 donors from across the country.

For more information about Melissa Owen and Austin Elder's Floragraphs, you can go to donatelifefloat.org.

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