Bakersfield organ donor to be honored at 2023 Rose Parade in Pasadena

Bakersfield organ donor to be honored at 2023 Rose Parade in Pasadena

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) – The Story of Dr. Larry Yokoyama has spanned years, and 23ABC has followed that journey from the first request to the Rose Parade.

In 2016, Yokoyama began reaching out to the community looking for a kidney donor. After four years of searching, Yokoyama received the greatest gift from organ donor Tamara McKeown on Christmas Day 2020 at Bakersfield Heart Hospital.

This year, dr. Yokoyama and his family honor Tammy by wearing a florography of her on the Donate Life float at the 2023 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. Tammy is the first Bakersfield organ donor to be honored with a florography at the Rose Parade.

A legacy ambassador, Kathy Vochoska, spoke about the call informing her that there was a potential donor for Yokoyama.

“She said, ‘Well, my best friend since childhood is in the heart hospital and has been pronounced brain dead, and she said the family would very much appreciate – she was a registered organ donor – that her organs would be donated to someone local, ‘” Vochoska said.

Because of the difficulty of finding blood types, it would be a miracle if Tammy’s organs matched, Vochoska said. In this case, a Christmas miracle.

“On Christmas Day, they received their gift of life, and it was all because Tammy said yes to organ donation,” Vochoska said.

Now, two years after that appeal, Tammy will be honored on the Donate Life float at the 2023 Rose Parade. The float will honor Tammy and other dormant organ donors with florography on a Chinese dragon float. Recipients like Yokoyama will ride on the float while living donors walk alongside.

Despite this honorable occasion, Tammy’s family and organ recipients say they remember her every day.

“I touch my left side where Tammy is and I thank her,” said Dr. Yokoyama. “I do.”

Tammy’s sister, Teresa Brossard, says this is Tammy’s way of continuing to help the community after her death.

“She was such a donor in so many ways, so it wasn’t surprising when we found out she’s an organ donor just when we looked at her driver’s license and saw the pink ‘do not’ on her driver’s license,” Brossard said. “Even through organ donation, she passes on after her death.”

Tammy’s florography consists of natural spices and seeds, including farina, millet for the background, rice for the smile, coffee and tea for the hair, and a special flower for the eyes.

The florography took nearly 8 hours to complete, and unlike parts of other floats at the Rose Parade, people can take donor florography home to further celebrate their stories, including Tammy’s.

The theme of the 2023 Tournament of Roses Parade is “Lift One Another”. The parade begins on Monday, January 2 at 8:00 am.

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