Road to the Rose Parade honors Benefis Health System organ donor Julie Shepherd

A rose dedicated to Julie by her mother, Janene.

Julie Shepherd was fiercely competitive and an exceptional athlete, but also radiated empathy and kindness to friends and strangers alike. In her short 17 years, her generosity touched the lives of many.

On Tuesday Nov. 12, Julie’s friends and family joined staff from Benefis Health and LifeCenter Northwest to celebrate her life and honor the legacy she left behind through organ donation. The event included rose dedications, a spread of Julie’s favorite foods, and the completion of her floral portrait, known as a floragraph, which will adorn the Donate Life float at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day.

Julie will be one of 44 deceased donors recognized with a memorial floral portrait, made out of organic materials such as dried flowers, spices and seeds, on the Donate Life float. Her family had the opportunity to put the final touch on the floragraph in preparation for its trip back to Pasadena for float decorating.

Julie’s family put the finishing touches on her floragraph

Just as she did in life, Julie helped numerous people in her passing by becoming an organ, eye, and tissue donor. Her gifts saved the lives of six people through the donation of her pancreas, liver, lungs, both kidneys and her heart, which was described by the transplant surgeon as the “mythical perfect heart.” Anyone who knew her would agree with that sentiment.

The person whose health is fueled by the beat of that heart was also in attendance. Julie’s heart recipient, Maddy, drove up from Utah with her parents to celebrate Julie. A high school athlete, Maddy suffered from Congenital Heart Disease and experienced a heart attack at just 14 years old. Thanks to her life-saving transplant, Maddy is back to swimming competitively keeping Julie’s heart in the athletic events she so loved.

Julie’s heart recipient, Maddy

“The donation process has helped to ease the pain of her death by giving us the knowledge that other people’s lives were helped,” Julie’s father, Derrek says. “Her drive to be the best, to compete with all her abilities, to explore, and above all, to love and care for those around her has given our lives new meaning. We love the idea that something good came from Julie’s death.”

The Donate Life float is part of a national initiative to help share the power of organ, eye, and tissue donation.  Each year, LifeCenter Northwest selects a donor from our service area to be honored on the float. We are joined by organizations from across the nation in sponsoring donor families, living donors, and transplant recipients to attend the parade and connect with others touched by donation.  To read more about Julie and this year’s Rose Parade float click here.

The Rose Parade will be held Wednesday January 1 at 8 AM PST, please check local listings for broadcast information.


View all photos from the Road to the Rose Parade event here

Check out the video below to learn more Julie’s legacy and the Donate Life Rose Parade float!