MESQUITE (CBSDFW.COM) – The Tournament of Roses Parade is a time-honored celebration ushering in the New Year. Thousands lined the streets of Pasadena, California on Monday for the annual event. And among the large crowd was a Mesquite mother who was there to cheer on the memory and life-saving actions of her son.

This year, one of the parade floats paid tribute to heroes who helped others through organ donation. Patrick Nunnelly of Mesquite was pictured on that float — the Donate Life float — named for the sponsor organization. Nunnelly’s mother flew to Pasadena to see the float drive past in person. “I was very honored,” said Kim Wayne-Segale. “At the same time, I’m very proud, because I know that he’s a hero.”

The Donate Life float participates in the 123rd Annual Rose Parade on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Nunnelly was 23 years old in July 2010, when he was fatally shot while trying to help a friend. His organs saved the lives of five people and helped 50 more through skin and tissue transplants. Wayne-Segale said, “I’ve actually met one of his recipients. Her name is Patricia. It’s just an awesome feeling to know he’s still living on.”

Wayne-Segal always smiles when she talks about her son. “He was just very vibrant, boisterous. He was just a character,” she said.

No one thought that Nunnelly’s time would be short. “I’ve lived in the shadow, too, thinking it wasn’t going to happen to me. And it could happen to either one of us at any given time,” Wayne-Segal said.

Nunnelly wanted to be a veterinarian, a firefighter, and then decided to go to college. In the end, Nunnelly became a life saver, and his mother became a champion for organ donation. “Donate Life. Sign up, because you never know when it’s going to be your time,” she said. Click here for more information about organ donation, or how you can become an organ donor.