Family of murdered Cedar Rapids teen honored during the Rose Parade in California

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Senquez Jackson was 15 when another teenager shot and killed him in Cedar Rapids in 2016. His family donated his organs.

That prompted the Iowa Donor Network to honor the teen and his family on the Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade in California on New Year's Day. Jackson's family helped decorate the floragraph of Jackson that was on the float.

Tamara Bloemendaal still calls Senquez her best friend. She takes a part of him everywhere she goes.

"I wear my necklace as much as I can,” she said. “His ashes are in my necklace."

Getting the float ready for the donate life parade was her favorite part of the trip. Seeing the finished product was touching for her.

"It was proud to see him on the float, but it was very emotional. I know I was crying,” she explained.

Bloemendaal says people with Donate Life greeted and supported her during the trip. The trip to California was also a sort of gift from her son. It was their family's first getaway together.

"He would've wanted me and the kids to have fun, have a good time,” she explained. “He would've he would've been right there with me cheering on too."

Members of the Iowa Donor Network say it was an honor to have Jackson’s family in Pasadena, California for the parade.

"For us, it's all about the donor,” said Tony Hakes with the Iowa Donor Network. “It's all about Senquez, and he's the hero through all of this, and for us to be able to honor him in this way is truly rewarding for us."

Jackson never talked about being an organ donor, but Bloemendaal feels like Jackson’s helping spirit would have wanted to give others a second chance at life.

"He was just like one of a kind, I mean no one can really say anything bad about him,” she said. “He was just the sweetest kid."

Click here for more information on the Iowa Donor Network.