Wichita man to be honored at Rose Bowl Parade after final gift saves life

A Wichita man who gave the gift of life with an organ donation after he died will be honored at...
A Wichita man who gave the gift of life with an organ donation after he died will be honored at the Jan. 2 Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, Calif.(KWCH)
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 11:32 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A Wichita man who selflessly gave the gift of life will be honored at the Rose Bowl Parade set for Jan. 2, 2023 in Pasadena, Calif. With more than 100,000 Americans on the waiting list for a vital organ, Zach Mendoza, in death, helped to save the life of a man he never met.

Mendoza was 25 years old when he died from a heart attack. His parents, Joe and Lisa Rodriguez, say they remember when Mendoza sighed up to be an organ donor. That happened when he got his driver’s license.

“When he passed, we of course, respected what his wishes were,” Joe Rodriguez said.

Mendoza’s lungs would turn out to be a perfect match for a North Dakota man. That man is now close friends with Mendoza’s family.

The North Dakota man and his family visited Wichita to see Mendoza’s family and to learn more about the man who saved his life. That visit, Lisa Rodriguez said, “was really beautiful.”

The Midwest Transplant Network selected Mendoza and his story to be featured on a float in the Rose Bowl Parade. Mendoza’s friends and family worked to put finishing touches on the floragraph of Mendoza that will be part of the rolling tribute to him in the parade.

“We were very grateful for that decision and just happy that they considered us and considered Zach,” Joe Rodriguez said.

Mendoza’s aunt, Cruz Rodriguez spoke from firsthand experience about how essential organ donors are. She was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2004. She went through countless dialysis appointments and had a 16-year wait for a transplant. She didn’t give up hope and received her new kidney the year after Mendoza died. She said knowing Mendoza’s donation helped someone like her means a lot.

“Knowing that my nephew moved on, he lives on. It’s the most beautiful feeling,” Cruz Rodriguez said.

Those wanting to become an organ donor can find information for doing so here: https://www.organdonor.gov/sign-up.