INDIANAPOLIS — A couple of Hoosiers are getting the chance of a lifetime to honor the life of a man taken far too soon to raise awareness about how important it is to be a organ donor.
“It’s such an honor; it is so overwhelming. I feel nothing but the love, care and compassion not only from my friends, but his family,” Melissa Pace said.
Melissa’s late husband and Indiana University South Bend Police Officer Levell Pace was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in 2002 and needed a kidney transplant.
According to the Indiana Donor Network, Levell was about to be placed on the national transplant waiting list when he died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 34.
“My husband was my soulmate; I knew everything before he passed and I knew when he passed this was what he wanted to do,” Melissa said.
Levell made a selfless decision to provide healing to others through tissue and cornea donation.
Melissa and her sister, Susan Jackson, left for California early Tuesday morning to join other donor families from across the country at the 2022 Tournament of Roses Parade.
“When he was alive, we were working on filling out the paperwork to get a kidney transplant because he was needing a kidney. When he passed, we were still able to donate bones, skin and tissue and that helped others,” Melissa said.
Marti Cooper, a community outreach coordinator with Donate Life Indiana and Indiana Donor Network, will join Melissa and her sister on the trip.
“The focus of Indiana Donor Network is to spread the word about donating and spread the word about donation and transplant and how many lives one can save,” Cooper added.
The three will participate in a private Donate Life rose placement ceremony Wednesday, then be with other donor families before helping decorate the Donate Life float on Thursday.
“Once they realize that one donor could help as many as 75 people, I think more and more people are realizing that and I think we are seeing more people sign up,” Cooper added.
A floragraph, or floral portrait, was created to honor Pace’s decision to save lives and will be displayed on the Donate Life float during the parade on New Year’s Day.
“I think what people can learn is that being a donor is like a final act of kindness, something that we can do to make a difference in the world,” Cooper said.
On Saturday, Melissa, Susan and Marti will be in the grandstands for the parade, watching for Pace’s floragraph.