Valley family to represent Arizona on 'Donate Life' float in Rose Bowl parade

PHOENIX - Two Valley families share a unique bond after an organ transplant brought them together, and now one of them will be honored at the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena.

Alejandra Rivera put the finishing touches on a picture of her son Fernando that will go on the Donate Life float for the parade. It was a bittersweet occasion.

Fernando was killed in March of 2011.

She thought he was asleep in his room so when she heard gunshots she decided to check on him. Fernando had been shot multiple times in the head.

When doctors told her he wouldn't survive she made a decision to donate his organs.

Around that time Greg Welsh had undergone emergency surgery and doctors had to remove his heart and give him an artificial one.

He was no stranger to organ transplants because his wife was killed in a car accident and he decided to donate her organs to help others.

In late spring 2011 Greg received word that the hospital had a heart for him.

He immediately wanted to know about the donor but was discouraged by medical staff because they want patients to focus on the recovery.

Nine months after his transplant, Greg received a letter from Alejandra and two started corresponding. They immediately felt a connection and decided to meet.

They both say the meeting was filled with emotion.

"I was just crying," said Rivera.

She said hearing her son's heart beat healthy in Greg assured her she'd done the right thing by donating.

Rivera said, "When I see Greg...I can't describe what I feel but it's something so special."

The picture of Fernando along with Greg will represent Arizona on the float in the Rose Bowl Parade on January 1, 2014.

Greg said he feels the process has bonded them for life.

Both Greg's family and Alejandra's will be there together.

If you'd like information on how to become a donor visit www.donatelifeaz.org or call 1-800-94-DONOR.

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