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Katy Family Honors Son, Supports Organ Donation in the Rose Parade


December 31, 2019

By Natalie Cook Clark

When Katy's Rylen Cowan past away at 13 months old he left a mark on this world by saving five lives. The Cowan family keeps his memory alive through raising awareness for organ donation. This New Year's Day, they will ride in the 2020 Rose Parade and honor Rylen and other angels who have saved lives.

Travis and Kristen Cowan work on the LifeGift float for the 2020 Rose Parade.

LifeGift Picks Katy Family to Ride in Parade

LifeGift, a non-profit that raises awareness and educates about organ donations, invited the Cowan family to decorate and ride on their 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade float in Pasadena, CA, and honor Rylen and 70 other honorees.

"To be the family that they picked was magical," says Kristen Cowan, Ralen's mom. "We're beyond touched."

Their Smilin' Boy Saved Five Lives

Rylen was always smiling so he earned the nickname name, Smilin' Rylen. When Rylen lost his battle with bacterial meningitis, his family set up the the Smilin' Rylen Foundation. Their mission was to educate others about organ donation. Five lives were saved by Rylen's organs.

The Smilin' Rylen Foundation also helps families in crisis.

"To know that you are not alone is powerful," says Kristen, who wants to support families experiencing the same grief that her family did. "It's ok to grieve in the way you need to grieve."

Honoring Those Lost and Raise Awareness

For many years, LifeGift has participated in Donate Life’s annual tribute to organ, eye and tissue donors, and has helped families honor their loved ones with a portrait featured on the Donate Life Float. Underscoring the importance of organ donation, these portraits, called “floragraphs,” are made of flowers, seeds, beans and other natural materials.

Over 1 million people are in need of organ, eye or tissue transplant each year. LifeGift wants to educate others and raise awareness about organ donation.

Celebrate Rylen and Those He Saved

The Cowan family continues to celebrate and honor Rylen's life and the lives of those he saved. Watch for the Cowan family on the LifeGift float on New Year's Day.

Learn more about the mission of the Smilin' Rylen Foundation and LifeGift and become an organ donor.


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