Late Bakersfield teen to be honored at Rose Parade for saving lives through organ donation

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JJ’s  Legacy, a nonprofit group dedicated to raising awareness for eye, tissue, and organ donation, announced Monday that the late Jacob Mendiola is the 2019 “Gift of life” award recipient, an honor that will be recognized on the Gift of Life Rose Parade float in the form of a floragraph featuring Mendiola’s picture.

Mendiola lost his life in an accident at the age of 14 in 2014. But in death, he gave the gift of life, donating many of his organs to those in need. His tissue, heart, and both kidneys were donated to those in need. 

“He was my only child. He was everything,” Maryann Mendiola said, speaking of her late son who was born with Down syndrome.

A lover of everything-sports, Mendiola was an athlete at Bakersfield’s League of Dreams, where children with developmental and physical disabilities gather to play sports and compete.

“He was full of life, the life of the party,” Mendiola said. “He loved to dance. He loved video games. He loved to swim. He loved sports. A great kid. Who had unlimited potential. He could have been anything he wanted to be.”

“It means a lot to know that he was able to help somebody, and somebody else has the ability to live longer because of organ donation,” she added.

Lori Malkin, founder of JJ’s Legacy, said Jacob Mendiola’s life and legacy embodied the award.

“Everybody loved Jacob, and he loved people. He loved life,” Malkin said. “There are so many people waiting for that life-saving transplant. So our mission is to support the families, but also to increase donor registration to save lives.”

Mendiola shared her gratitude for her son’s posthumous award.

“It’s an honor to be able to do something like this for my son,” she said. “He brought joy to many many people. So many people will get to see him and know a little something about him.”

You can dedicate a rose in honor of Jacob at no charge. Simply fill out the online dedication on donatelifefloat.org by Dec. 23rd. Click on the “Dedicate A Rose” section. 

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