Families marched in Fiesta Bowl Parade in honor of Donor Network of Arizona

- While thousands enjoyed the Fiesta Bowl Parade, there were hundreds of local organizations participating as well.

The Donor Network of Arizona was among them. For seven years, the life-saving organization has honored families touched by their work marching in the parade.

When Graciela Sanchez's daughter Karen came to her three years ago saying she wanted to be a registered donor, she didn't know if it was a good idea.

What she didn't know is that her 17-year-old daughter would suddenly pass away in an accident two weeks later. But that discussion also led to today, standing next to Gail Shepherd, the recipient of her daughter's heart.

"Oh it was a cry session, but it was good," Shepherd said.

At the end of 2014, after a heart attack, Shepherd was told she has just months to live.

"I went to the hospital and in between my surgeries, that's when my heart blew up, and so I was not going to make it, but I made it through. They patched my heart and put me on the donor's list," Shepherd said.

Within a month, Shepherd had matched with Karen's heart, even though she was grateful, Shepherd explains it was also a very emotional journey.

"I didn't want someone to die for me to have a heart. I really had to go through a lot of emotional things, and it was really hard for me," Shepherd said.

Sanchez says the experience made her realize what a huge need there was for more people like her daughter Karen.

"Many people are in need and waiting for an organ or a heart," Sanchez said.

On Saturday morning, the two of them stood side by side, marching to honor the recipients and families touched by the Donor Network of Arizona, knowing the world is a better place because of people like Karen.

"They said that my heart, if something happened to me, and if my heart is so good, they can donate it again. I mean, it's just a blessing," Shepherd said.

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