Garrett Brockway was just ten years old when a falling tree ended his life.
Even as they dealt with unspeakable grief, his parents decided to give the gift of life. By donating Garrett’s organs, they saved five lives and enhanced many others.
“Your organs are a gift from God. They should be given on to help others,” Garrett’s mother Tiffini Brockway said at an event to honor Garrett Dec. 20.
According to the Iowa Donor Network, there are over 570 people waiting for organ transplants in Iowa and over 120,000 waiting nationwide.
The Brockway family, of Burlington, traveled to the Iowa Donor Network building in North Liberty to complete a “floragraph” of their son, who died Feb. 27. The floragraph, an image of Garrett constructed from organic materials such as crushed flowers, spices and seeds, will be displayed on a “Donate Life” float at the Rose Bowl Parade Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.
Organ donors from across the country will be honored with floragraphs on the float. Living donors and transplant recipients will ride and walk with the float to raise awareness about organ donation.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Tiffini Brockway said. “He’s carrying the torch for every donor.”
Kim Burdakin, 53, of Muscatine, will represent the Iowa Donor Network on the float as a transplant recipient. She received a life-saving liver donation in 2000 from Steven Toth, 21, of Michigan, after he was pronounced brain-dead following a car accident.
Connections between organ transplant recipients and donors can help provide healing for donor families, the Brockways said.
“The whole organ donation process has given us light,” Garrett’s father Bruce Brockway said. “There have been some dark moments in our home, but the organ recipient stories bring joy.”
The family has received letters from seven recipients and gotten to know one recipient well. A 14-year-old boy received Garrett’s heart; another 14-year-old boy received his liver. A 43-year-old women received his pancreas, and his kidneys went to a 28-year-old man and a 65-year-old man. Garrett’s corneas improved vision for a 10-year-old girl and a 63-year-old woman. A boy with chronic knee pain and a police officer wounded in the line of duty also received tissue.
To carry on Garrett’s memory, the Brockway family started the Garrett M. Brockway Foundation, also known as Garrett’s Path, to raise awareness about organ donation. The foundation also supports youth academics and athletics.
Before finishing the floragraph, the family presented the Iowa Donor Network with a $10,000 check from the foundation, money raised at a November 5K fundraiser in Burlington.
Garrett’s best friend Josh Gavin, 10, joined the Brockway family to help decorate the floragraph, which was then mailed to Pasadena for the parade.
“He was the greatest friend in the world,” Gavin said.