Local murder victim & organ donor honored at Rose Bowl parade

SHAWNEE, Kan. — A local woman murdered in Lawrence in 2017 who then saved dozens of lives through her organ donation was honored on New Year’s Day during the Rose Bowl parade.

Leah Brown was 22 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 that earned her national recognition.

See photos of the float she was included on below.

Her family just marked 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.

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, earned a special recognition. It was a floragraph, an honor that adorned the “Donate Life” Rose Bowl parade float in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day.

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 the best gift you can give doesn’t come in a shiny package under the Christmas 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 5 minutes at ShareLifeMidwest.com. Be sure to share your pledge with family and friends.

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