Hally Yust was a pretty little girl with big aspirations, a great big smile and a heart to match.
So it’s fitting, her mother says, that a floral portrait of her would set among flowers on the Donate Life float in Friday’s Tournament of Roses Parade.
Hally, who was 9 years old when she died in the summer of 2014, was one of 60 organ donors chosen to be honored on the 13th annual Donate Life float.
The float is sponsored this year by the Midwest Transplant Network based in the Kansas City area.
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“Her story is very unique and is a good testament to show that regardless of what was going on with a person medically when they died they still have potential to give life as a donor,” said Brooke Connell, spokeswoman for Midwest Transplant.
An artist in California created the floragraph of Hally, then sent it to Kansas City with portions of it incomplete so members of her family could add finishing touches on her blonde hair and blue eyes.
Hally, of Spring Hill, Kansas, was a competitive water skier, enjoyed free diving and snorkeling in the Bahamas, and loved basketball. In fact, her mother Jenny Yust said, Hally practiced basketball every day and wanted to become a professional player.
The summer of 2014, Hally, who was home schooled but also attended Mighty Oaks Enrichment Center in Gardner, spent a lot of time in the water. At some point, “we don’t know when,” her mom said, a tiny organism, called an amoeba, entered Hally’s body.
She became ill.
“We thought it was the flu,” Yust said.
Hally’s condition deteriorated, until eventually, in the hospital and on a ventilator, she lost brain function. That’s when her parents made the decision to donate their child’s organs.
“When we got the worst news we could get about Hally, we knew if there is nothing you can do for your kiddo, you think what can you do to help someone else,” Yust said.
Hally’s kidneys saved the lives of two men. Yust and her husband Shon , have been in touch by mail with one of them.
“We would like to meet him some day,” she said.
The Yusts, have three other children who are with them this week in Pasadena, California, for the Rose Parade.
On New Years Eve day, the five of them were walking in the sunshine on their way to Santa Monica Beach.
“Wow,” Jenny Yust said. “It’s been a year and a half since Hally died and she still keeps giving us gifts, fun, joy and her heart. Yes as a mom I would rather have her here with us. But since she can’t be here, I realize that it’s because of her, a super giving kiddo, we are here on this day.”
The 2016 Donate Life float, No. 36 in the parade, features a colorful camel caravan.
The 60 donor floragraphs displayed like jeweled medallions on the base of the float “honor the deceased donor’s lifesaving gift,” Connell said. Twenty-four transplant recipients will ride the float and 12 living donors will walk alongside the float carrying baskets of flower-accented fruit to symbolize life giving.