Boxer's selfless gift gaining national attention

November 30, 2011 (CHICAGO)

At the time of his death, Francisco Paco Rodriquez's family followed his orders and donated his organs that helped to saved the lives of five individuals, including an uncle in need of a kidney transplant.

Paco's story was chosen from thousands, and a floragraph, a portrait of him made with flowers, will be placed on a parade float to encourage individuals to become organ donors and give the gift of life.

"I know, wherever he is, he is glad and happy that I made the decision he wanted me to make for him," said Sonia "Paco" Rodriguez, the boxer's widow.

At the time of his death, Rodriguez's wife was left to raise their infant daughter, now 2 1/2 years old. She says she always talks to her daughter about her father and the kind of man he was.

"He was something I am never going to forget," said Rodriguez. "But Gift of Hope gives me certain things to keep on remembering him as a hero."

"He was selected because his story is a great story that can inspire people to become organ and tissue donors," said Gift of Hope's Raiza Mendoza.

Rodriguez was at home in the boxing ring. The five-time Chicago Golden Gloves champion came from a family of boxers. His brother Alex will be one of 28 riders on the float representing his baby brother, known as "El Nino Azteca," or "The Aztec Kid."

"I do not think my brother died, I think he multiplied," said Alex Rodriguez. "He was only one, now he is five...We should all donate and save lives."

Paco Rodriguez's mother said in Spanish that she was unable to attend the match that ended her sons life. She does not understand why he had to die so that others could live but finds comfort that the recipients of his organs are now living full, healthy lives.

"It means people can become heroes and live for a very long time even after they are gone," said Alex Rodriguez.

The parade honoring Paco will be on January 2.

Gift of Hope will also hold a very special vigil in Paco's memory on December 13 at a gym in Garfield Park to give Chicagoans an opportunity to celebrate his life and memory.

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