Local murder victim & organ donor to be honored at Rose Bowl parade

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SHAWNEE, Kan. -- Sadly, 22 people are lost every day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.

Twenty-two is also the age Leah Brown was in October 2017 when she was caught in the crossfire and killed, in a downtown Lawrence shooting.

Brown was an organ donor, and it's a gift now earning her national recognition.

Leah Brown's family is now marking their second Christmas without her. But rather than dwell on what they're missing, they're still celebrating her life.

"I think the good coming out of tragedy is what we've really held onto," said Gretchen Brown, Leah's mom.

As Leah and some friends were leaving a bar in downtown Lawrence, a group of people they didn't know started fighting and shots were fired. Three people, including Leah, an innocent bystander, were killed in the chaos.

Many times before that fateful nigh, Leah made it clear that one day she wanted to be an organ donor.

"She was probably really mad at the shooters, like `Couldn't you have shot me a little different, so i could've gave a little bit more? Because I had some really good stuff to give. My organs were great!'" Gretchen said.

During summers attending and working at a Colorado camp, Leah met a lot of young people who had received donated organs and some who were still waiting on a miracle.

"Leah realized the impact of donation and became a huge donor advocate," Gretchen said.

Little did her family know, Leah's gift would come sooner than anyone could've expected.

After she died, Leah was able to donate her corneas and connective tissue, which could ultimately save up to 75 lives over the next four years.

"I think Leah's still changing lots of people's lives and she's probably getting a pretty big kick out of it," Gretchen said.

Last year, the Browns were the top "Legacy Walk" team, getting dozens of people officially pledged as organ donors.

Their efforts, combined with Leah's gift, are now earning a special recognition.  It's a floragraph, an honor that will adorn the "donate life" Rose Bowl parade float in Pasadena, California on New Year's Day.

"Every year we always watch the Rose Bowl parade and end up watching the game after it. Just to know that I'll be there this year and that she'll be presented in the parade and we'll get to go to the game, is just awesome," Leah's brother, Anthony Brown said.

The family, together with the Midwest Transplant Network, hope her beautiful portrait paraded to a national audience will be a reminder to everyone watching, that this Christmas, the best gift you can give doesn't come in a shiny package under the tree.

"If you're sitting with your family this holiday season, talking about ways to give back to others, we encourage you to add your name to the registry," Michala Stoker said, Midwest Transplant Network public affairs manager.

You can register online to become an organ donor. It takes less than five minutes at ShareLifeMidwest.com. Be sure to share your pledge with family and friends.

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