Jan. 8, 2010 – Tissue donor, Mike Craig a teacher and coach from Johnstown, Ohio was honored by the American Association of Tissue Bank (AATB) with a floragraph on the 2010 Donate Life Float and one of his tissue recipients, Mike Vyrostek, was selected by the AATB to ride on the float.

Mike Craig's Floragraph

Vyrostek, from Pataskala, Ohio was a friend and football teammate of Chris Craig, Mike Craig’s son, at the college of Wooster when he suffered a knee injury in 2004.  The Craig family offered Mike’s tissue and thanks to the transplant, Vyrostek finished his college football career and is now a teacher and coach in Licking County.

Chris Craig, Molly Craig and Vyrostek traveled to Pasadena, Calif. for the Tournament of Roses Parade to honor Mike Craig.  Here, Molly and Mike share their experiences during this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Remembering My Dad – By Molly Craig

My trip to Pasadena couldn’t have gone any better.  I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience something so powerful that I can’t even put it into words.

The float was absolutely beautiful, but it couldn’t compare to the amazing stories shared by float riders and their families.  So many of their stories brought me to tears, and it was nice to know that many people share my same experiences and have come to look at life with such gratitude. I hope that our story helped them as much as theirs helped me.  I know that my Dad touched many lives when he was still living through teaching and coaching, but I never thought he still would be today through his legacy as a donor.

Molly works on the Donate Life Float

My emotions throughout the trip were up and down. I was so happy and excited to be in Pasadena, sharing this adventure with my brother, Chris, but every time I really took the time to think about my reason for being there I would start to cry. All I wanted was my Dad to be there with us.

When the gorgeous Donate Life Float came down Colorado Avenue, with Mike V. smiling, waving, and holding my Dad’s picture with his floragraph right above him, I was overwhelmed with feelings of both honor and serenity.  I knew that everything that happened to my Dad was exactly how God planned it. God planned for him to touch lives beyond his students and players, which allowed us to partake in this amazing opportunity. I have always known he has meant a lot to the people who knew him but to see his story being told across the country has truly been a blessing.  Seeing that float go by was the most gratifying moment of my life.

That was, until I walked into the Rose Bowl Stadium. I know that this was the real miracle of our trip.  I don’t mean to take away from the float, any of the people riding it, or those who worked diligently on it, but my Dad was the biggest Buckeye football fan I have met, or will ever meet!

The stadium and game would have been his heaven. Molly Craig

The stadium and game would have been his heaven.  As soon as I saw the field, I started to cry and laugh at the same time out of pure euphoria.  Watching the Buckeyes win the Rose Bowl wasn’t just a great end to their season, it was the perfect end to our perfect trip which was all thanks to my perfect Dad.

Life Changing – By Mike Vyrostek

Life changing – unforgettable – amazing – touching – once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – these are words and phrases that come to mind when I think back about my trip to Pasadena.

Mike (left) works with Chris on the float

When we arrived a few days before the Rose Bowl and the parade, I was very nervous about meeting new people, travel arrangements, float judging, events and waving to millions of viewers. At the float rider orientation dinner I heard all of the awesome stories being told by the other riders thinking to myself that I did not belong.

My dream of football didn’t seem to compare to a life-saving story of a heart or kidney transplant. But that soon changed. I told my story, and talked about the gift I received from Mike Craig – which the next day was shared at the Gala dinner for all float participants through a video. The response to the video was overwhelming. Many attendees came up to me and they were all so positive. Even the band “All Four One” gave a shout out to our story during their performance. I realized that the story I share with Mike Craig was truly special and I belonged.

I was fortunate enough to be able to help put the finishing touches on the Donate Life float with family, friends and the Craig family. As I walked to the barn where the float was being held there were tons of people in line. I made my way through and realized they were buying tickets for a glimpse at the amazing floats!

Once in the barn I was in awe. I had no idea how much work was put into the Rose Parade floats and how beautiful they really were. After helping the many volunteers work on “New Life Rises” I had a new appreciation for our float. (In the picture I am on the left and Chris Craig is on the right)

When it was time for the float judging, I could barely eat I was so nervous. I found my seat on the float and took directions from the creators. A bell rang, music started and I had to start waving. As I sat there waving many of the volunteers, riders and families let their emotions show, even a judge passed by with tears in her eyes. It was a very special moment.

Finally the big day had arrived – the 121st Tournament of Roses Parade was here. The nerves were getting worse as I ate breakfast with the other riders. When we got on the bus and traveled toward our float I began to get an idea of how many people were going to be watching! Floats, riders, bands and people were everywhere. I could not believe I was going to ride on a float, broadcasting on national television in front of millions.

I took my seat on the float next to Carter and Manual, two other float riders. At 8:00 a.m. the music started and we were off. Many thoughts went through my head as we began to move. Could I wave for two and a half hours? Would I look stupid in front of the crowd? Will my wave look awkward? Was my smile dumb? Did I deserve to be on the float? After a few moments, those thoughts vanished. Even cameras at every turn did not faze me.

The ride was spectacular. People were applauding, pointing, crying, nodding, giving thumbs up and showing so much gratification for what our float meant. I was proud to be a rider on the “New Life Rises float.”  It was an amazing ride, one that I will never forget and a special opportunity to recognize Mike Craig’s generosity and thank him for the gift he gave me.

Inspiring – By Chris Craig

My trip to Pasadena, California was inspiring. During the four days I spent there, I had never felt more selfless in my life. I had the opportunity to put some of the final touches on the Donate Life Float with my sister and our friends. While working on the float (pictured below) I saw hundreds of names and pictures and was able to converse with people about their stories and their inspiration to decorate. It was great to be a part of that.

Chris helps decorate

The night of the gala I listened to more moving accounts of donation, including my own father’s story. I was approached by a few people after the dinner, all to express how touching his story was to them.

On the morning of the Rose Parade, I watched the Donate Life Float on its path down Colorado Boulevard as my friend Mike Vyrostek sat and smiled in front of thousands in attendance and honored my father, his donor. Later that day we attended the Rose Bowl game between the Oregon Ducks and

THE Ohio State Buckeyes, for me the game was the culminating event of a trip that brought back so many great memories.

I can still remember sitting on our couch in 1997 as a 13-year-old boy with his dad watching the Buckeyes and Joe Germaine come back with a little more than one minute left to beat Arizona State. My father was a football coach and I am now too – football was so much more than just a game for us. It was a common bond between best friends for a game that requires so much attention to detail, so much physical and mental strength, and so much emotion. It was hard to hold back the tears as the Buckeyes took one last snap to seal the victory in Pasadena.

Overall, I realized that my family’s story and the countless stories of donation that touch our hearts are what make the trip and the Donate Life float so special. There is no float in the Rose Parade that

encompasses the heart and compassion involved in the entire operation.

The float itself is so much bigger than just my father or just one story. It is about the possibility and opportunity to liberate someone else and redeem their chance at life. I want to thank Lifeline of Ohio, American Association of Tissue Banks, and Donate Life for the opportunity to travel to Pasadena and witness something truly awesome.