Evansville organ donor to be honored at Rose Parade - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Evansville organ donor to be honored at Rose Parade

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The organs donated by Thomas Walls saved the lives of six people he never knew. The organs donated by Thomas Walls saved the lives of six people he never knew.

A local organ donor will be remembered during the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day.

On Wednesday night, friends and family of the late hockey player gathered at Swonder Ice Arena to honor Thomas Walls and learn how they, too, can save lives.

Thomas Walls was stabbed during a party in 2007 and died from his injuries. The organs donated by Thomas saved the lives of six people he never knew.

Now, his image and story are headed to Pasadena. He will be one of 72 honorees featured on the 2013 Donate Life Float.

"He spent a lot of time here. Hockey was a big part of his life," Thomas' mother, Lee Ann Schafer told 14 News.

Hanging from the rafters of Swonder Ice Arena is a memorial to Thomas Walls. 20 hockey sticks for his 20 short years on earth, and a jersey bearing his number six.

"I'm in a club that nobody wants to join. I'm a mother who lost her son, but if I can tell his story then I can see some good in what has happened to our family," Schafer said. 

 Thomas' death in 2007 meant life for six people waiting for transplants.

Now, his sacrifice and contributions are being honored through a special float in the upcoming Rose Parade.     

"It was a little hard to understand how his decision at 16 to become an organ donor would have carried through to this point,"Schafer said.

Friends and family gathered for what's called a 'finishing event', pouring some of the final seeds into a floragraph picture of Thomas to hang on the float.

"He lives on in many people, you know, that he donated his organs to. So, that's a special way to remember Thomas is that he still lives on in others," Cindy Schaefer said. Schaefer is the mother of one of Thomas' teammates.

The Indiana Organ Procurement Organization says more than 1,400 people in the state are currently waiting for transplants. A pledge to donate can save many more lives.

"I am looking forward to learning about other people's experience with this and just to help me be more of an advocate," Schafer said. 

The organization says about 70 percent of Indiana drivers are organ donors, which is high among other states.

It's that organization that is funding the project and the family's trip to Pasadena.

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