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Local organ donor to be honored

His young son already has been singing Erich Vogel's praises, and soon the man's photo will adorn a float at the 125th Rose Parade in Pasadena.

November 14, 2013|By Beau Nicolette
  • Kieran Vogel proudly shows off a picture button of his dad Erich while his mom Bethany sits nearby during a visit to Tewinkle Park in Costa Mesa. Kieran's Halloween costume this year was his "super hero dad" whose donated organs were a benefit to 64 people after his death in 2009.
Kieran Vogel proudly shows off a picture button of his… (Don Leach / )

When one California Elementary School first-grader started preparing his Halloween costume, he told his mom he wanted to be a superhero.

But Kieran Vogel did not want to be a masked nocturnal crime fighter or hammer-wielding mythical god. The 6-year-old wanted to be a superhero like his dad.

He wanted to be Donor Man.

"I picked it because my daddy was like a superhero," Kieran said, "because he saved like a hundred or something lives."

His father, Erich Vogel, died in 2009 of a heart attack, and the man's eyes, tissue and bones have been donated to 64 people. Erich will be featured on the Donate Life float in the 125th Rose Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1.

At first, Bethany Vogel "kind of giggled" when she heard her son's Halloween request and told him, "But Daddy wasn't a superhero."

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"But then I was like, I corrected her like this — 'Yes he was,'" Kieran said.

Vogel said her son had "always been creative with his costumes" but she was beyond surprised by his choice.

Vogel said she has been very open with Kieran about his father's death.

The Costa Mesa mom is an ambassador for Donate Life, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing donor registration. She said her son is no stranger to the idea of organ donation and the nonprofit's colors — blue and green — and insignia. He has few memories of his father — he was 2 1/2 when Erich died — but Kieran is aware that his death allowed others to live.

"He's always equated the Donate Life symbol as the daddy symbol," she said.

Kieran said his costume idea stemmed from a Batman cape, gloves and utility belt he already had.

"I didn't want to be like Batman," Kieran said. "I just wanted to be like a superhero, just like my dad."

He told his mom he had to look like a superhero, complete with spandex bodysuit, mask and chest covered in removable organs. His cape featured a pink donor dot that read "I am a donor."

His blue and green outfit — colors inspired by the "daddy symbol" — was covered in anatomically accurate organ replicas including purple kidneys on his back, a pair of lungs, a heart and even a pancreas.

"If anybody needed a kidney, I could just [take] off both my kidneys and give them to people," Kieran said.

Organ donation was not Donor Man's only super power though. In true superhero fashion, he also had laser eyes — but not in real life, Kieran stated, just to be clear.

The family participates in Donate Life run/walks and other events and this year has had the added focus, the honor for Erich, which has increased Kieran's awareness.

As for the Rose Parade float, the Vogels have been to see it — and met the Rose Queen. They plan to help place the flowers around Erich's picture, which will be featured among others on the float.

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