On New Year’s Day 2019, Briana Brooks was remembered on the 2019 Donate Life Rose Parade® Float for both the life she led, and the gift of organ donation she gave after her tragic death in September, 2014. Briana, along with others who saved and improved lives as organ and tissue donors, was honored with an artistic floral portrait, a floragraph, which was prominently displayed on the float. This year marked the 16th appearance of a Donate Life float in the parade, which is viewed annually in person by thousands every January 1st in Pasadena, California, and on television by millions around the world. Along with floragraphs, organ and tissue transplant recipients rode the float and were accompanied by living organ donors who walked the parade route.
When Briana Brooks received her driver permit, she made the decision to register as an organ donor, and with that single act she changed the lives of others forever. It was no surprise that Briana made that decision – from a young age, she felt destined to help people. Influenced by her pediatrician, she had long proclaimed to her mom, “I want to be a pediatrician and save lives!” and Briana pursued that dream. She graduated in 2011 from George Washington Carver, Health and Sciences Research High School and was awarded a scholarship to continue her studies after a brief break when she became a mother.
Briana, already a mother of two, was seven months pregnant when she and her fiancé were kidnapped at gunpoint. They were found hours later with catastrophic injuries; Briana was barely alive and sadly, her fiancé had already succumbed to his injuries. Once at the hospital, Briana underwent an emergency C-section to save the precious life she was carrying. Doctors prepared her family for the worst – her severe gunshot wound in the head was not survivable and it was unlikely her newborn baby, Kaylie, would survive either.
Three days later, Briana’s decision to save lives through organ donation became a reality, as doctors informed her family that she was brain dead. Her family took comfort knowing Briana’s life was not going to be remembered for the brutal way she died but for the wonderful gifts she was able to share with four people.
“Kaylie’s survival was another answered prayer; she recently celebrated her fourth birthday.” said Sadria Strong, Briana’s mom. “Briana’s legacy continues through her three children and the recipients of her organs. In her darkest moment she gave light and life to others.”
Making the journey to Pasadena to take part in the New Year festivities were Briana’s mother, Sadria, her two daughters, Kaylee and Kylee, as well as her brother, EJ. Tracy Ide, public affairs accompanied the family. The once in a lifetime journey kicked off with special recognition from Delta Airlines as they boarded the flight in Atlanta and the recognition continued as they were greeted by Delta staff in Los Angeles with a homemade welcome sign, roses and Delta book bags for the girls. While in Pasadena, Briana’s family attended a Floragraph family brunch where they were serenaded by British-American singer/actor, Alex Boye and American R&B/pop group, All 4 One, as they honored the organ and tissue donors represented on the float. Sadria took part in decorating the Donate Life Float as well as the UPS Store Float and Briana’s family joined over 400 Donate Life supporters for float judging, which resulted in the Donate Life Float, themed “Rhythm of the Heart”, being awarded the “Judges Award: most outstanding float design and dramatic impact.” They finished the evening and rang in 2019 at the Donate Life Float New Year’s Eve Celebration.
Bright and early on New Year’s Day, Briana’s family joined other Donate Life supporters in the grandstands to watch the Rose Parade make its way down Colorado Boulevard. As their journey to Pasadena came to an end, Briana’s family reflected on the memories made and the new friendships formed with those who have experienced a similar loss. Sadria says, “I am beyond grateful to LifeLink of Georgia for remembering Briana and the selfless decision she made. This truly was a trip of a lifetime that we will remember forever.”