Rose Parade to honor memory of Courtney Dayback

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Rebecca Nowalski
Courtney Dayback’s father, Dennis, gives words of thanks during a special ceremony held at the Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank on November 29.

By KAREN RAPOLLA
Staff Writer

Riverview Medical Center served as the host to a rose signing ceremony, along with NJ Sharing Network, to honor the memory of Courtney Dayback, who passed away in 2008 on her 19th birthday.

“Riverview is honored to participate in this beautiful rose signing ceremony with the New Jersey Sharing Network and to honor Courtney Dayback,” said Tim Hogan, president of Riverview Medical Center and Bayshore Community Hospital.

The ceremony took place Nov. 29.

The rose, signed with a tribute to Courtney by Hogan, will be used on the Donate Life float in the 128th Rose Parade on Jan. 2.

Riverview Medical Center and Bayshore Community Hospital are honored to be part of such a moving tribute to Courtney.

Dayback, who grew up in Keyport,  went into cardiac arrest while taking a class at Brookdale Community College. She was studying to be a special education teacher.

She became an organ donor after her tragic and untimely death at Riverview Medical Center, and her organs helped seven different people.

“The loss of our daughter has left an empty space in our home and in our hearts,” said Dennis Dayback, Courtney’s father. The family decided to donate their deceased daughter’s organs to those in need of a transplant upon learning that was her wish.

“It’s bittersweet. It’s the tough thing to do, but it is also the right thing to do,” said Dennis Dayback about the choice to donate his deceased daughter’s organs, which according to him went on to save the lives of seven people.

“In our case it was something that Courtney definitely would have wanted,” Hogan said. “Through events like this one, we are helping to keep Courtney’s memory alive. She is very much a part of the fabric of what we do here — healing and helping others, and her sacrifice, and that of her family, is humbling. We are grateful to be part of this very special honor and can’t wait to watch the float in the Rose Parade.”

The 2017 float depicts a spectacular Polynesian catamaran, which will be propelled by a team of 24 organ, eye and tissue transplant recipients rowing in unison with strength gained from their donors.

Courtney’s portrait will appear on the sails of the vessel, which will feature 60 floral portraits of donors interwoven with Polynesian designs and patterns. Just as the donors’ gifts empower the lives of others, the sails help power the catamaran on its journey. Twelve living donors will walk alongside the float carrying flowers in celebration of the life they have given to others and the quality of life they continue to enjoy themselves.

“The Rose Parade gives the organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation community an opportunity to come together as a team to inspire millions of viewers to support their fellow Americans by registering as donors,” said Tom Mone, chairman of the Donate Life float committee and CEO of OneLegacy. “Millions of Rose Parade watchers will make an emotional connection to the ideals of community and cooperation our float will depict.

“There is a clear symbolic association between the team effort needed to propel the catamaran and the selflessness of deceased donors and their families providing lifesaving gifts to grateful recipients. Organ donation and transplantation is truly a team effort, and our 2017 float conveys that beautifully.”

As the day nears, family and friends of the featured donors will gather together to complete the portrait of their loved one, and Courtney’s family will participate in this process to adorn the catamaran’s sails. The portraits of the donors are created using natural materials, such as seeds and berries, in keeping with the rules of the Rose Parade.

The float was designed by Charles Meier, who received some of the Tournament’s most prestigious awards of all four floats he designed in the 2016 Rose Parade, including the Donate Life Float, which is being built by Paradiso Parade Floats and the efforts of more than a thousand volunteers.

“We are so proud of Courtney,” said Dennis Dayback. “Everyone calls us a hero for donating her organs, but it wasn’t us. Courtney is the true hero. She made that decision, and it was because of her that seven individuals were given a new chance at life. Having her portrait on this float is an incredible way to honor her and her gifts.”

“Courtney Dayback was a selfless young woman taken entirely too soon,” said Jan Hines, assistant director of hospital services for NJ Sharing Network. “Riverview has done a wonderful job of keeping her memory alive and supporting our efforts to encourage organ donation. We are thankful for a wonderful partner in this mission and are excited to see Courtney honored in the parade.”

Last year, according to the NJ Sharing Network, organ donation for the organization rose 37 percent from 2014, and tissue donation rose 7 percent.

According to the organization, there are around 5,000 people waiting for organ transplants in New Jersey alone.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) called Courtney a hero.

“The gift of life is no small or simple feat for the heroes that donate organs. Courtney is one such hero. Because of her and her family’s decision to donate her organs, at least six other people are alive, or living greatly enhanced lives. Courtney’s spirit lives in each of them and should inspire each of us to register as organ donors.

“Education about organ donation is key to improving the rate of donor registration in any state. States should work with organ procurement organizations to develop curriculum to best educate the public about this incredibly important issue,” he said. “There aren’t too many things we each get the opportunity to do that can actually save lives. This is one. Don’t put it off.”

Today, more than 123,000 people await an organ donation in the United States. One donor can save as many as eight lives and heal as many as 100 more. There are several ways in which people can register, including on their driver’s license or by visiting www.NJSharingNetwork.org or www.donatelifeamerica.org.

The 128th Rose Parade takes place on Monday, Jan. 2, at 8 a.m. (PST). The float will sail down the streets of Pasadena in California. For more information, visit www.tournamentofroses.com.