Parents, other family members, organ recipients, classmates and coaches of Cam'ron Matthews, the Alto High School junior who died about a year ago, put the finishing touches Monday on a floragraph - a portrait of Cam'ron made of organic materials - that will be added to a float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
During the finishing ceremony hosted by East Texas Medical Center, they finished the eyebrows, which were made with spices.
Cam'ron, 16, died in October 2015 after he collapsed during a football game. Doctors said Cam'ron died of an aneurysm.
Cam'ron now is one of 60 organ donors from across the country who will be honored by having their floragraph/portrait displayed on two sails of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float in the shape of a Polynesian boat. The float was created and sponsored by organ donor programs across the country.
His parents, Gayla and Ronnie Matthews, heeded Cam'ron's desire to donate his organs even though he was a minor. He was a football player, a member of the student council and on the A-B honor roll at Alto High School.
Southwest Transplant Alliance chose to honor Cam'ron and his parents with the floragraph, saying the family has "been great supporters and advocates of organ donation," Katie Whitton, director of public relations, said.
"In their most heartbreaking, tragic time of life, they decided to give the gift of life to other people," she said. "In their painful moment, they chose to help other people live."
Ronnie Irwin, of Henderson, received Cam'ron's right lung, and Dana Hall, of Houston, received his right kidney and pancreas in October 2015.
"It's been a life-changer for me. It's given me back my life, and there's no way I can express the gratitude to the Matthews family," Irwin said. "I was so fortunate to get a call and be on the waiting list when they could do the transplant."
Before the transplant, Irwin had been seeing doctors for five years and was on oxygen, but last month he returned to work as an independent contractor.
Receiving Cam'ron's organs "means life, it means quality of life," Ms. Hall said. "I have two sons, and I know they are happy that I'm alive, too."
She was in Stage 4 renal failure and had been a Type 1 diabetic for 29 years.
Before the transplant, she said, "I could barely lift my head off the pillow I was so sick. Now I live pretty much a normal life."
Cam'ron's father, Ronnie Matthews, said the family misses their son but they are comforted knowing how others have been impacted.
"When we lost Cam'ron, we couldn't understand the good that was coming out of losing him. We can look now at each of the (organ) recipients and be able to see Cam'ron lives on. It truly is amazing for us."
The father said the couple loves each of the organ recipients and considers the medical staff at East Texas Medical Center family. He thanked the surgeons, nurses and staff for their support.
"We appreciate everybody for going above and beyond; we had a lot of good people taking care of us," he said.
Since 2015, there have been a total of 87 lives that have been saved or renewed through organ donations at ETMC, Elmer Ellis, president, said. There were 18 organ donors at ETMC in 2015 and already this year, 16 families have chosen to donate organs of their loved ones, he said.
Monday's ceremony was another means of reminding East Texans of the importance of organ donation, Ellis said.
People can sign up to be an organ donor by going to donatelifetexas.org or elect organ donation when they get or renew their driver's license. Southwest Transplant Alliance also conducts periodic registration events.