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Guest Blogger Jessica Southern Shares Her Experience On the Rose Parade Float

Posted Jan 14 2009 5:06pm
Morning everyone.

I'm excited to turn blogging duties for today over to Jessica Southern, one of 2 teens with lupus who recently rode on Kaiser Permanente's float -- Propel Your Dreams -- in the 120th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 2009.

Enjoy Jessica's story.

Until next time,
Wick


My Rose Parade Experience by Jessica Southern


My story begins when I was diagnosed with lupus. It was such a shock, but I figured God would take care of me. I believe my faith in Christ has a lot to do with how I am dealing with lupus. I have been really lucky with what I can still do. I have had to cut back a lot, like doing things with friends and not staying up as late. I am willing to make those sacrifices to keep healthy.

When I was asked if I wanted to be on the Kaiser Rose Parade float, it was like you want “me” to be on the float. So I said, “Yes” and the fun began to happen. Our first event was a “Family Fun Day” where all the float riders were able to meet each other and the Rose Queen and her Princesses and the families of Kaiser employees. We were give the option to help decorate the float, so my family and one of my best friends, Andie, went to decorate. My brother Joshua, Andie and I decorated a hamster wheel. When I first saw the float, I wanted to be in the hamster wheel. So, even though I rode in the row boat for the parade, I got to decorate the wheel. At the end of the day, I felt like a flower because the strawflowers kept falling on me and stuck in my hair. It was a long but enjoyable process.

New Yearʼs Eve was judging day and it took the judges a long time to get to our float. When it was our turn to be judged, we had to pretend we were on the parade route and not look at the judges. Do you know how hard it is to look at the “crowd” and not look at the judges who were standing directly in front of us? Well, it was hard.

New Yearʼs morning, I was so excited; the big day was finally here and I was going to be in the Rose Parade! The families of the float riders stayed at a hotel so we would be able to meet at 5 a.m. in the lobby for our shuttle to the float. The float riders did a live broadcast on Channel 2 News at 6 in the morning. Most of our parents saw us. Then we waited for the parade to begin. When it all came around we got wristbands for security reasons and boarded the float. I was so excited. My heart felt like it was going to burst. I remember thinking, “this is me, boarding the actual Kaiser float for the Rose Parade!” It was just so cool and unbelievable, plus it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

During the parade route, I saw Taylor and Vanessa (some friends from my Color Guard team). They were just screaming my name and that was probably one of the best moments on the float. I didnʼt see my parents, but they said that they saw me. My Grandma was able to come which was totally awesome. Along the parade route, a few audience members were shouting out to us saying, ”Survivors” or “Fighters” because they believed in us and knew we all had serious medical conditions.

Being on the float was fun, but not all of it was. Sure, you got to do a once in a lifetime experience with people who have some of the same problems as you, and being able to ride on a float in front of a crowd and cameras was unbelievable. The wait to some of the activities was torture and I was just so excited that I wanted it to start. Then when you were on the float for two hours, your butt starts to hurt cause you are sitting on a hard surface and your cheeks start to hurt from all the smiling.

The next few days after the parade I felt like a superstar. I was in the newspaper with a big picture. At church, all my friends saw a clip of me on the float and were so proud. It is nice knowing that so many people care about me.

I know my family loves me and supports me through thick and thin, and lupus is definitely thick, but they have helped me overcome it. My family gives me the strength to carry on.
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