For kids whose lives have hung in the balance, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN) such as West Virginia University Medicine Children’s in Morgantown, help them to find their own adventure in life. WVU Children’s float in the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade, “Wild and Wonderful,” echoed the parade theme of “Find Your Adventure” with a depiction of some of the outdoor activities that West Virginia offers.
“Wild and Wonderful” was designed by Michelle Lofthouse for Phoenix Decorating Company. It recreated four seasons and the transition between the colors of fall into the whites of winter, with symbols of the state scattered throughout. Six of the riders were young people who had life-saving procedures at the hospital. Examiner spoke with two of them, Justyn Jenkins and Meg Throckmorton. Their stories are with the photos below. Other riders and outwalkers are family members and employees.
CMN raises local donations for hospitals, and the funds stay in that community. Chief Concept Officer Craig Sorenson told Examiner than CMN does “anything we can do to help people understand the need for funding for children’s hospitals.” Why a float in the Rose Parade? “It’s a unique way do that in a kind of fun way,” he said.
Megan Skubovius, Development Officer for the WVU Foundation, said that they had been approached by Morgantown native Lorraine Streivy who currently lives in Southern California. “She had the idea of presenting West Virginia in the parade, but she wanted to benefit a charity,” Skubovius said, “so we went through the process.”
The theme of the 127th Rose Parade and 102nd Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2016 was “Find Your Adventure.” If you have a question or would like a reply to your comment, please post on Facebook at All Things Rose Parade or email email@example.com.
From fall to winter in West Virginia
Kids are having a “Wild and Wonderful” time on the WVU Children’s Rose Parade float. The float depicted seasonal changes from spring rhododendron trees to summer gardens, colored oak leaves of fall, and the winter snows. The cardinal is the state bird.
Riders, in addition to the six children from the hospital, are Sarah Beland, Stephanie and Jennifer O’Palko, Amanda, Mike and Jess Jones, Ty, Hope, Cole and Chase Wright, Jadika Stalnaker, Olivia Riley. Outwalkers are Leslie and Carolyn Jenkins, John and Dolly Throckmorton, Samuel and Melissa Stalnaker, Brent and DeeDee Wilmoth, Aaron and Sarah Yost, Megan and Mike Skubovius, Annette and Ron Beland, Andy and Dee O’Palko, Rob Riley, Cheryl and Brian Jones, Aaron Hill.
Singing for the kids
Country singer Mark Wills is one of the national ambassadors for CMN and has been involved with the charity for seven years. He stands at the foot of the covered bridge pathway between representations of the Greenbrier Resort Springhouse on stone plinths of rice powder and seeds in shades of black and gray. The grass is real sod and the rhododendron trees, representing the state flower, are created with mounds of roses, dendrobium and green springer.
On Wednesday afternoon of Deco Week, we spoke with one of the sodders, Kendall Elliott from West Virginia University. He was volunteering with seven of his family members. “We flew in on Monday and goofed off on Tuesday,” he said. “I’ve been here since 8 a.m. today.”
Meg Throckmorton, a walking and breathing miracle
“This is beautiful. I’m excited,” Meg Throckmorton told Examiner as she looked at the WVU Children’s Rose Parade float getting its final touches. She stopped to insert a few roses into the foam deck. “I’m going to Hollywood tonight,” she enthused. But riding a float and walking along Hollywood Boulevard are only small steps for this young woman. The big steps started in April, 2014, when then 16-year-old Meg did a round off back tuck, a move she said she had done hundreds of times that very day in dance class. Something went wrong and she fell on her head.
“I am technically a quadriplegic. I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I was life-flighted to Children’s Hospital.” Fortunately, WVU was able to implant a diaphragmatic pacemaker—only the second institution to do so on a minor—and used cooling treatments to minimize the damage. She could not move for 12 days, but then Meg began to feel twinges. “Five or six weeks in, I knew I was going to walk,” she said.
She became part of a University of Miami project that paired up two sets of doctors. She said, “It was devastating at first, but I thought, there’s no use staying here doing nothing. I’ll go there, do what they tell me, and work as hard as I can.” At four months, she was using walkers and wheelchairs, and now is able to walk and uses the chair only when she has to walk long distances.
Now 20, Meg is a sophomore at Waynesburg University, which is close to her Pennsylvania home. Though endurance is still an issue, she’s working on a degree in finance, and while she doesn’t have career plans as yet, she said, “I like numbers.”
Rafting adventure at the Rose Parade
Six children whose lives were lives were changed by WVU Children’s rode the 2016 Rose Parade float. Five of the children are on the raft: clockwise from lower left, Samantha Stalnaker, Meg Throckmorton, Jordan Beland, Tyler Yost and Brody Wilmoth. Justyn Jenkins, pictured in the next photo, is the sixth. The raft is yellow strawflower, blue statice and gray silverleaf with a floor of black onion seed.
Thousands of colorful roses in pink, lavender, peach, orange, gold, red and white were used on the deck and in the trees. Donors could attach a message to a rose to raise funds for one of the 170 CMN hospitals. Mums, gerbera, various orchids, gladiola, pussy willow, cattails, calla lilies and pumpkins were among the fresh materials used on the float. In all, more than 30,000 fresh flowers were used.
Justyn Jenkins, video games and computer science
Calling himself “the miracle child,” Justyn Jenkins has not let physical limitations stop him from doing what he most enjoys, playing video games. He told Examiner that he likes “a mix of everything” in his gaming. He wants to study computer science and becoming a programmer. “But I’m open for anything in the computer science area,” he said.
In 2014, just after he turned 16, what seemed like a bad cold turned out to be diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication of diabetes. Justyn was put into a medically-induced coma and his body temperature reduced. This procedure saved his life, but cost him his lower legs and eight fingers. He said, “It was an adjustment, just accepting it and learning how to do with what you have.”
Justyn serves as a Champion Child ambassador for WVU Children’s. In this role, he has been to Washington D.C., with Delta Air Lines providing the flight. “I got to ride on a tram that goes under Washington,” he enthused. In February, he will travel to Orlando, Fla. to speak to media, corporate, and hospital partners.
He said he was excited about being in the Los Angeles area for the Rose Parade and to see the new Star Wars movie and explore Hollywood. He and his family have already visited Downtown Disney. As far as his trip to Pasadena to ride on the float, he said, “I’m speechless about it. West Virginia hasn’t had a float in the Rose Parade forever, and to be on the float is insane.”
Mingling summer and winter in West Virginia
Kids rafting on a river of roses may be reminiscent of summer, but the black bear—the state animal—and a skier are ready for the snow. Animation on the WVU Children’s float included two bears, one on each side, moving their heads and “snow.” The bears’ coats were created with uva and buffalo grasses and hyacinth root. The faces were coffee, onion power, walnut shell, seaweed, gray white pepper and white rice. Skis are seaweed, strawflower, walnut shell, coffee and rice.
Finding adventure with outdoor sports
This girl is fishing off a covered bridge made of silverleaf, rice, lettuce and poppy seed, redwood bark, and walnut shell. The rock work is poppy, lettuce and sesame seed, walnut shell and green moss. Other sports enthusiasts on the float were a bicyclist, skier, two snowboarders and two hikers.
The New River Gorge Bridge, created with silverleaf between the two trees, is the world’s fourth longest steel single-span arch bridge. Two birds are just leaving the frame: a Great Horned Owl to the left and a native pheasant flying above. The pheasant uses a large variety of materials to copy the natural plumage, including buffalo, uva and pampas grass, palm bark, black ti leaves, corn husk, strawflower, coffee, poppy seed and rice. And of course, the snow machine is going full blast. It was actually almost cold enough for real snow in Pasadena; the temperature at 7 a.m. was 32F.
Deco Week view of the birds and trees
Two days before the Rose Parade in the Phoenix Decorating Company’s Rosemont Pavilion, we got a different view of the trees, the New River Gorge Bridge, and the pheasant. The many colors of material on the pheasant can be seen in this photo, as can the span. The 25-foot tall trees, folded down in this shot, used Christmas tree greens on top, green parsley flakes, white mums for snow with accents of dendrobium and redwood bark trunks. The snowflakes covered with white dendrobium petals.