City of Donaldsonville highlights organ donation with Jarrius Robertson, Guillot family

Michael Tortorich
Donaldsonville Chief
Shown from left at Donaldsonville City Hall April 21 are Lori Steele of the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, Amber Kimble of the Donaldsonville Fire Department, Capt. Darryl Smith of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, Constable Jeff Henry, Jarrius "J.J." Robertson, Peggy Guillot, and Don Guillot.

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan recognized Organ Donor Awareness during his Making Progress Facebook Live program April 21.

The mayor welcomed Lori Steele of the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, as well as special guests whose lives have been touched by the gift of organ donation.

Jarrius "J.J." Robertson, Jeff Henry, Peggy Guillot, and Don Guillot appeared during the broadcast and shared their stories.

The Guillot family was presented a floragraph from the Donate Life floral sculpture displayed during the 2021 Rose Bowl festivities in California.

The late Shawn Elizabeth Guillot was honored as a donor hero with her image broadcast worldwide as a face of donation, representing the state of Louisiana.

At the conclusion of the program, the mayor encouraged the community to light up their yards in blue and green in support of organ donation.

30-plus years of a legacy of love

Shawn Elizabeth Guillot 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.

Though the parade was cancelled for New Year’s Day 2021 due to the pandemic, the event’s organizers displayed the floragraph in Guillot’s honor in California.

Alyse Ourso and Cruz Cassard each received the Shawn E. Guillot Memorial Scholarship. Guillot's parents, Don Guillot and Peggy Guillot, gave the award to the students.

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.

The floragraph is a design based on a portrait. It is created entirely with organic materials. 

Guillot 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 the LOPA site, Peggy was devastated by her loss. After withdrawing to the chapel, she 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.

Lori Steele, Jarrius “Little JJ” Robertson, Peggy Guillot, and others chat last year after a Donate Life flag was placed in front of City Hall. The flag was raised once again this year.

Jarrius "J.J." Robertson, 20, has been well-known as a Louisiana sports superfan and promoter of organ donation. He has captivated the hearts of many as he has undergone two liver transplants, at ages one and 17, while battling a rare disease called biliary atresia. He said he was in a coma for at least a year.

His upbeat attitude and big personality shined through once again this year as the mayor introduced him during the livestream.

During his 2021 appearance, Robertson said he still keeps in touch with his donor’s family.

“Even though he’s not here anymore, it’s like he’s here because I’m living for him,” he said.

National Donate Life Month

As April is National Donate Life Month, LOPA and the City of Donaldsonville have been working together to promote organ donation. 

To learn more about LOPA, see lopa.org.