The holidays are especially difficult for Karen Brill.
It’s impossible not to focus on the absence of Aric Brill, the 16-year-old son and straight-A student, who died in early 2009 after being shot outside a party in what police believe was a random act of violence.
This year, Karen and the rest of the Brill family are grateful to have something positive to concentrate on, a distraction that still manages to keep Aric at the center of things.
Aric will be one of 72 organ donors honored on the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., which begins at 8 a.m. Monday — the first organ donor from Las Vegas to receive the honor. Donate Life is a nonprofit alliance of U.S. organizations committed to increasing organ, eye and tissue donations.
Six people received organs from Aric when he died.
The teen, who was a junior at Global Community High School, told his mother not long before his death that he wanted to be an organ donor.
"He said: ‘If I can’t use my organs anymore, I want someone else to have them,’ " Karen said. "It is really important to me that we had that discussion. It would have been really difficult to make that decision if we hadn’t. I knew Aric had said yes."
Aric’s picture was transformed into a "floragraph" portrait that his family completed in Las Vegas Dec. 17 for the float. His and other floragraphs will adorn six floral clocks on the 55-foot-long float, whose theme is "One More Day."
"By honoring these 72 individuals, we hope to remind people that donors have the power to save up to eight lives and heal 50 more through organ, eye and tissue donation," said Bryan Stewart, chairman of the Donate Life float committee. "Every donor counts when the waiting list for life-saving organs continues to grow while the circumstances for organ donation to be possible are so rare."
Karen and Aric’s father, Don Brill, will travel to Pasadena today to help decorate the float and watch the parade in person.
"It gives us a chance to be part of something really positive and uplifting," Karen said. "We will be with other families in the same position. It won’t be a mourning or grieving time for us."
A friend at the Nevada Donor Network originally contacted Karen with the idea of nominating Aric for the float. The organization, which is the only federally designated organ procurement agency in Southern Nevada, facilitated the recovery and transfer of Aric’s heart, kidneys, lungs and other organs, tissue and bone.
Watching the parade has long been an annual family tradition, Karen said. But she’s never seen it in person, never been a part of it.
"I was really excited," she said. "I was hoping Aric would be chosen. I thought his story was significant."
Aric was shot Feb. 20, 2009. Witnesses at the time said he was returning to a party with some other kids when they were jumped from behind by suspected gang members. Aric had no affiliations with gangs.
Police said the shooter pulled two guns and started shooting when Aric and another boy fled.
The other boy was wounded, but survived. He is now an Army paratrooper and has a new baby, Karen said.
Police have yet to make an arrest in the case. Karen urges anyone who knows anything to call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.
"Somebody saw something," she said.
Since Aric’s death, Karen also has worked to increase organ donation.
"I always knew Aric was different," she said. "I always knew he was going to be something great. If this is where his legacy took him, it’s my responsibility to take it from there."
Learn more or register to become an organ and tissue donor at nvdonor.org.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.