Rose Parade float will honor a Marina del Rey organ donor and his widow, now an ambassador for the cause

By Andy Vasoyan

Rachel and Glenn Greenberg in 2012, six months before
a massive brain hemorrhage ended Glenn’s life at age 57

In 2013, in his Marina del Rey home, 57-year-old Glenn Greenberg had an accident. While his wife and partner of 14 years was at the grocery store, Greenberg suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. The artist and father died at a hospital less than a week later.

For Glenn, that was the end.

For his wife, his story was far from finished.

As Rachel Greenberg would discover, her husband was an organ donor.

“He had only signed up three or four months earlier,” Greenberg says. “He was waiting in that long line at the DMV, and he met a woman who was a kidney recipient. She told him about how she had gone from being at death’s door to having a whole new life.”

Inspired, Glenn registered, but that was no guarantee. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only three out of every 1,000 registrants die in a way that allows their organs to be recovered; a 0.3% chance. As the doctors removed him from life support, it was cold comfort.

Six weeks after her husband passed, Rachel was invited to a support group at One Legacy, an L.A.-based organ donation foundation.

“I went there not knowing what to expect: I was scared, anxious, worried, sad,” Greenberg says. “Instead, I found a lot of comfort, and I heard their stories and realized that Glenn wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t alone.”

Glenn’s decision to become an organ donor ended up making a difference in 127 lives, according to One Legacy.

Make that 128.

Soon, Greenberg began to volunteer as an ambassador for the organization, visiting hospital staff to help them encourage families to become donors. Then she added community centers and schools, universities and city council meetings. New employees at Marina Del Rey Hospital hear her at their orientation, and she was asked to throw the first coin into an organ donor memorial fountain at UCLA.

“It’s bittersweet,” Greenberg says, “but the positive part is how many people’s lives will be helped and enhanced, and saved.”

Now she will be welcomed at the Rose Parade.

“From the 29th to the 3rd, I’ll be in Pasadena with all these other families of organ donors coming in from all over the country,” Greenberg says. “We’ll have events and we’ll share stories, and we even get to decorate the float on scaffolding. It’s super exciting; I can’t even sleep!”

The families will be assembled by Donate Life, an organ donation collective, and their loved ones represented by floral portraits on Donate Life’s award-winning annual Rose Parade float.

“Although Glenn died in 2013, he was chosen this year, and he’s getting his own florograph,” Greenberg says. “The float is a replica of a Hawaiian catamaran, and the pictures will be up on the sail. It’s going to be beautiful.”

The 30-plus florographs will accompany organ donors and recipients, who will ride and walk with the float along its route. Greenberg will be there for all of it.

“It’s amazing, and it’s a journey I never thought I’d be on — ever — but it’s my life now,” she says. “I make every day the best I can, to honor Glenn.”

The 128th Rose Parade begins at 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 2, in Pasadena and will be broadcast on KTLA Channel 5. Visit tournamentofroses.com for general parade info or donatelifefloat.org to read more about the Donate Life float.

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