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Carmel transplant recipient, tissue donor to be honored during Monday's Rose Parade

One float in Monday's lineup will honor McKenzie Leichtnam of Carmel.

CARMEL, Ind. — The stage is set for the 134th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

One float in the lineup will honor McKenzie Leichtnam of Carmel.

McKenzie was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. It's a condition where one side of the heart doesn't develop as it should.

Days later, his family says McKenzie received a life-saving heart transplant.

McKenzie went on to live 20 happy and healthy years.

"We were best friends," said McKenzie's sister, Kelsey Boling. "Annoying siblings, amazing memories, the whole childhood. Then, his story was cut short."

McKenzie passed away unexpectedly just before his 21st birthday in 2011.

"He had made the decision when he registered at 16 to be a donor," Boling said, "and we honored that by giving tissue. We are just thrilled that he lives on."

During the 2023 Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 2, McKenzie will be one of 44 donors honored on the Donate Life parade float.

"If you were to go up to that float after it is decorated and pull a single flower off of it, it's going to have a tag," said Lindsey Johnson, who works with Indiana Donor Network. "That tag is going to have somebody's name on it that was a donor hero."

The Leichtnam family, including Kelsey, flew from Indiana to California Friday morning. Organizers said the family will help put the finishing touches on the parade float while meeting other donor families over the weekend.

"We are just excited to absorb it all," Boling said. "We are ready to honor him and be with other people who have been in our shoes."

McKenzie's family said his story is now inspiring others to become donors.

Click here for more information on how to register.

The parade airs Monday, Jan. 2 at 11 a.m. ET on NBC and WTHR.

Credit: Indiana Donor Network
McKenzie Leichtnam

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