Underscoring the theme of the 2015 Rose Parade, pageant organizers invited the public to submit “inspiring stories,” which automatically will be entered into a sweepstakes that offers a grand prize of a VIP trip for two to the Jan. 1 parade and first College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl.
The stories may be submitted online at www.roseparadeinspire.com in the form of a photo, video or narrative, via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 15.
The winner also will receive $1,000 — in the form of a gift card — for travel and other expenses.
The theme of the 126th Rose Parade was inspired by the story of Louis Zamperini, the Torrance High School graduate and distance runner who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
During World War II, Zamperini — a bombardier — was aboard an aircraft that was shot down in the South Pacific. He and a surviving crewmate spent 47 days adrift on an inflatable raft before being captured by Japanese soldiers when they reached the Marshall Islands.
Zamperini was a prisoner of war for more than two years, during which time he was frequently beaten and tortured. He returned to Southern California to a hero’s welcome.
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Zamperini found solace in 1949 when he became a born-again Christian after attending a Los Angeles crusade led by evangelist Billy Graham. He eventually became an inspirational speaker preaching the power of forgiveness.
Zamperini practiced what he preached in 1950, when he went to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo, where Japanese war criminals were being held, and met with some of his torturers to offer them forgiveness.
Zamperini had been selected in May to serve as grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade but he died from pneumonia July 2 at age 97. A film about him, directed by Angelina Jolie, is scheduled to be released on Christmas Day.
Rose Parade organizers described Zamperini as a “symbol of heroism and perseverance.”
Said Tournament of Roses president Rich Chinen: “The inspiring stories social media campaign is meant to uphold the joy and hope that individuals bring to those around them just as Louis Zamperini did.”