“I firmly believe if you look hard enough you can find some good to come of any tragedy.”
Making something good out of something tragic has been a mission of sorts for Betsy Harrell and family for nearly four years.
An off-road truck crash took the life of Mandy Harrell, 18, in 2006. The Central High School graduate was an organ donor, it was a title she learned growing up in a family that knows the meaning very well.
Mandy’s grandfather received a donated heart and kidney when she was a young child. The donation kept Grandpa around for nearly a decade.
Today, almost four years since Mandy Harrell’s accident, her family continues spreading the message of organ donation all across East Tennessee. “You know, I never really thought about it until this happened to Mandy,” Missy McMillan, a family friend and fellow member of Central Baptist Church in Fountain City said. McMillan received an organ donor registration card at a Central football game thanks to the Harrell’s. The family sponsored a cheerleading platform since Mandy was a cheerleader while in school and one night made a push for organ donors.
“I actually signed up there,” McMillan said.
While the message has been well received in the Central community, now the Harrell’s are taking Mandy to a much bigger stage: The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.
Thursday night the family put the finishing touches on what’s called a floragraph. It’s a piece of art that closely resembles Mandy’s portrait. Like everything in the parade, it’s made of all organic material: flowers, spice and coffee.
“Oh, it’s amazing, you can actually smell it, the flowers, the spices,” McMillan said. Artists in California put the image together but left off the eyebrows. A task that Mandy’s mother, father, and brother took care of in Fountain City. They’ll now mail it back to Pasadena where it will be mounted on a float, ready for the New Year’s Day parade.
The organ donor message and Mandy Harrell’s face will likely be seen by millions.
“She’d love it. There are millions of people on this street and on TV looking at you and I know you have to be so excited,” Betsy Harrell, Mandy’s mother said.
Who knows, some of those in the audience could be one of the six people who are still able to enjoy parades at least in part because of Mandy’s gift.