Parker Lang’s mom, Vicki Moore, remembers her son as a bit of a jokester, with “a lovely smile and a warm heart.”
The Mill Creek teen’s best friend, Logan McGill, made videos with his buddy. In one, which shows the two friends eating snacks and acting zany, McGill added profound thoughts: “I will never forget you. Thank you for changing my life.”
And then there’s Mary Monteleone Raben. The Forks woman never met Lang, but part of him is always with her. “Parker’s my hero,” she said. Last year, the now 54-year-old Raben received a transplanted kidney. Lang was an organ donor.
Parker Lang, 18, died March 11, 2016, after being hit by a car on the Bothell-Everett Highway. A 2015 Jackson High School graduate, he was struck on a rainy night while walking home from work at a Mill Creek store.
Moore said she remembers her son saying yes, “without a doubt,” when asked if he wanted to be designated as an organ donor on his state ID card. “Little did we know that six months later, Parker’s death would save a number of people,” she said.
Lang’s spirit and his gifts of life — recipients received a transplanted heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and corneas, Moore said — were applauded Thursday during an event at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
At the tribute, his mom, his best friend and the kidney recipient helped put finishing touches on a floral portrait of Lang that will be part of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. With images called “floragraphs” of Lang and 42 other organ donors, the float will join dozens of other floats, marching bands and equestrian groups in the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California.
LifeCenter Northwest, a nonprofit organ procurement organization, partnered with the cemetery, funeral and cremation provider Dignity Memorial to sponsor Lang as a float honoree. The teen’s portrait, made of seeds, spices and other natural materials, will be sent to Pasadena.
And come New Year’s Day, Moore plans to be there in her son’s honor. She’ll be at the 129th Rose Parade when the Donate Life float rolls down Colorado Boulevard, and will meet others affected by organ donation.
“The Donate Life float has floragraphs of all the donors. Organ recipients ride on the float and living donors walk alongside it,” said Cate Oliver, LifeCenter Northwest communications program manager. “The need is great. More than 118,000 people nationwide are waiting for a transplant, and in Washington there are about 2,000.”
Although Lang graduated from Jackson High, along with his now 20-year-old pal McGill, he had military-style help reaching that milestone. As a sophomore, Moore said, her son was behind on credits. “He had a reality check, that maybe he wouldn’t graduate with his class,” Moore said.
On his 16th birthday, he entered the Washington Youth Academy, a school and residential program in Bremerton that’s part of the National Guard Youth Challenge program. Lang spent six months there and became an academy graduate before returning home to earn his Jackson diploma with his high school class.
The program was so helpful that Moore established the Cadet Parker Lang Memorial Scholarship, awarded for the first time in June. Karen Chak, an academy graduate now studying dental hygiene in college, received the first $1,000 scholarship.
Larry Pierce, Washington Youth Academy executive director, and its commandant, Chris Acuna, both spoke at Thursday’s tribute, which also brought Providence doctors, nurses and other staff to a hospital conference room decorated with roses and pictures of Lang.
George Dean, a longtime friend who served as Lang’s mentor while he attended the military school, also shared memories of the teen. “He was kind of a free spirit,” the Edmonds man said. Dean said that through the years he had taken the boy to hockey games and the Pacific Science Center. “I tried to be in his life on the most important days,” he said.
Lang “was a boy of 16” when he started at Washington Youth Academy, but “came out a young man,” Dean said.
Raben, the kidney recipient, said she was born with polycystic kidney disease. The inherited disorder causes kidneys to enlarge and lose function over time. Five years ago, she learned she needed a new kidney and was put on a transplant list. Three days after Lang’s death, on March 14, 2016, she had surgery at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. While recovering, she wrote a letter of thanks to her donor’s family, not knowing Moore’s identity.
She and Lang’s mom met last December. “We had talked on the phone and written letters. I knew right away we would be friends,” Raben said. She still has the disease, but is much improved. “Now I can do everything with a zip in my step,” she said.
In a moving moment, Pierce presented Lang’s mother with a Washington Academy Challenge Coin, used as a traditional salute to cadets.
“When he came to us, the potential was already there,” Pierce said. “He was fulfilling a mission. He gave at the academy, he gave to us, and he gave in his passing.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Donate Life Rose Parade Float, started in 2004, honors organ donors and raises awareness of the need for organ donation. Information: www.donatelifefloat.org/wp/
The Washington Youth Academy, a quasi-military residential school in Bremerton, is part of the National Guard Youth Challenge program. Information: https://mil.wa.gov/youth-academy