STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) -- On Jan. 1, millions will watch the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, but a Stockton mother will have her sights on one specific float.
“Being that he was nominated without me knowing, without me suggesting it, it was definitely an awesome surprise for us,” Silvia Van Steyn said.
Van Steyn’s son, 13-year-old Michael Balsley-Rodriguez, will be featured on the Donate Life float for giving the ultimate gift when he lost his own life two years ago.
“Even though he was just 13 years old, he gave life to five people,” Van Steyn said.
Michael died after accidentally shooting himself in 2017 but his mother made sure his short life was not in vain.
“I wanted to make sure that something came out of this tragedy for our family,” she said.
Michael’s organs were donated to five people. His heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas gave each of them a second chance at life.
“I keep in contact with them, you know holidays and through Facebook and their life has just changed so much because of Michael,” Van Steyn said. “And that’s something that’s amazing."
In the years following her son’s tragic death, Van Steyn has become an advocate for several organ donation networks in Northern California, speaking at local high schools and educating the Hispanic community about becoming a donor.
“Being around other people that are donor families, it helps with my healing as well but also educating the community on all these horrible myths that they hear is very important to me,” Van Steyn told FOX40.
But this New Year’s Day, her son’s gift will reach far beyond the five lives he saved. Michael’s face will show millions around the world how the loss of one life can give hope to so many others.
“Life is so short. You never know what’s going to happen. You never know what tomorrow brings,” Van Steyn said. “And just him being so young, because he was so healthy, he was able to save these people.”
For more information about becoming an organ donor, visit Donor Network West here.