Guillot family turns tragedy to triumph through organ donation

Michael Tortorich
The parents of the late Shawn Guillot, Don and Peggy Guillot, joined local officials, business leaders, and representatives of the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency in advocating for organ donation.

The family of the late Shawn Guillot, which has been advocating for organ donation for nearly 30 years, has been continuing her legacy in both Ascension Parish and afar.

In honor of their efforts, Shawn was chosen as one of the 18 heroes honored as part of the Rose Bowl celebration this year. She is the only hero representing Louisiana.

The Donate Life Rose Parade Float has been a centerpiece of the annual national media campaign to inspire organ, eye, and tissue donation since 2004.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no parade will be held, but a floragraph of her likeness will be on display at the Tournament of Roses House in California. The floragraph is a design based on a portrait, and is created entirely with organic materials.

Just over a month ago, the Guillot family, including parents Don and Peggy, Shane, Wyatt, and Shawn, were in attendance at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge to remember and honor the life of their late loved one.

Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, known as LOPA, shared a video of the special event, thanking the family for sharing their hero for nearly three decades.

Lori Steele of LOPA said the Guillot family’s dedication over three decades is “something unheard of across the country.”

“For a family to be so actively involved so long after donation is a testament to their love and to Shawn’s incredible legacy,” she said.

Two donor families with Louisiana ties designed and donated yard signs to the family. Ryan Viator’s Legacy and Liz Fox of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float Committee had the signs delivered as another way to share Shawn’s story and legacy in her hometown of Donaldsonville.

The Guillot family and LOPA contacted local officials and business leaders who have supported Shawn’s legacy over the years. 

Last week, they went around the city to meet with supporters and deliver signs. LOPA shared several photos of the supporters receiving the signs, which promote the gift of donation.

Supporters included local businesses, the City of Donaldsonville, Prevost Memorial Hospital, and Ascension Catholic School.

“They all graciously agreed to continue telling Shawn’s story in order to spread donation awareness in Donaldsonville,” Steele said.

Shawn gave the gift of life to six people, and sight to two others as an organ donor in 1991. At age 15, she tragically lost her life after being involved in a vehicle crash.

She was in her third day as a sophomore at Ascension Catholic High School when she was involved in the crash. The photo used in the floragraph was actually newly taken for that school year, and was to be used in the yearbook.

As featured in a hero story on LOPA’s site, Shawn’s family was devastated by her loss. After withdrawing to the chapel, her mother realized in a reverse situation, she would have been praying for someone else to have made a life-affirming decision.

Shawn’s heart went to a 58-year-old father, her left kidney and pancreas went to a 24-year-old man, her right kidney to a 37-year-old teacher, a mother of three, and her liver to a 42-year-old registered nurse, a mother of two.

To learn more about LOPA, see lopa.org.