By Kristina Houck
India Phillips died two years ago, but her kidneys helped another person live.
The Solana Beach girl was honored for her organ donation during the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena.
“It is quite an honor,” said India’s mother, Kim Phillips, prior to the New Year’s Day event.
India was a happy and seemingly healthy 4-year-old, but fever and leg pain on Halloween 2011 prompted a visit to Rady Children’s Hospital. On the way to an MRI, her heart stopped. She was revived, but died 36 hours later from Group A Strep.
Because of the damage from the bacterial infection, most of India’s organs went to research. But her kidneys went to a woman in San Diego.
“Tragedies happen,” said Phillips, who lives in Solana Beach with her husband, Jeff, and their 8-year-old daughter Trinity. “If you don’t need your organs, why wouldn’t you give them away?”
The Donate Life Rose Parade float has served as a memorial to organ and tissue donors and a platform for donor families, living donors and transplant recipients since 2004. This year’s float remembered 81 donors, including India, who represented San Diego.
India’s parents and sister decorated her part of the float along with dozens of other families on Dec. 21. Using organic materials, such as spices, seeds and crushed flowers, India’s loved ones created a “floragraph” portrait of her beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed face.
A dozen living donors walked alongside the float, which seated 30 transplant recipients.
“I’m looking at her little face decorating it. When I got to her eyes, it was the hardest thing in the world,” said Phillips through tears. “It was very emotional, but it was comforting to be around people who suffered through a tragedy or received an organ because of another tragedy.”
According to Donate Life, 18 people die each day in the United States waiting for an organ transplant. Last year, 76 San Diegans died waiting because there weren’t enough donors.
To honor India and raise awareness of organ donation, the Phillips family created a foundation in her name. Through the India Phillips Foundation, her family, friends and supporters have donated gifts and hosted birthday parties for children at a local homeless shelter, as well as provided wheelchairs to children and adults in the U.S. and abroad.
A running group called Team India runs in her honor and raises funds for the foundation. The group donates half of its funds to Donate Life.
“You just hope that nobody forgets your child,” Phillips said. “Donate Life is such a gift because it saves lives. Donate Life is incredible — it’s incredible what they can do.”
For more information about the India Phillips Foundation, visit
To register as an organ and tissue donor in India’s name, visit her link on the secure California Registry at www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org/India. For more information about Donate Life and Donate Life San Diego, visit