Local man honored in Donate Life Rose Parade float

When she would go to Brownstown Greenhouse and Gifts to buy flowers for her son’s headstone, Alicia Reedy said Wayne and Judy Gilbert always took such great care of her.

While in the shop for the recent Christmas open house, the Gilberts introduced Reedy to the new owner, Bobby Eldridge.

Alicia showed him a picture of Grant Reedy’s headstone with spring flowers next to it and told him Grant was an organ donor and his donor medallion also is on the headstone. Grant died May 2, 2018, at the age of 20.

“Bobby looks at me and he goes, ‘That gave me goosebumps,’” Alicia said.

He told her he was soon heading to California to once again work on Tournament of Roses Parade floats, and one of the Fiesta Parade Floats entries is for Donate Life.

Donate Life America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that motivates the public to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, provides education about living donation, manages the National Donate Life Registry at registerme.org and develops and executes multimedia campaigns to promote donation, according to donatelife.net.

Alicia and her husband, Greg, are proud of Grant’s decision to be an organ and tissue donor. She said Grant has given life to four people with his organs and sight to two people with his corneas and can provide a better quality of life for 75-plus people with his tissue donation.

Eldridge told Alicia if she could bring him a framed picture of Grant, he would make sure it’s a part of the Donate Life float.

She chose a senior picture taken by Jamie Marshall of Grant in his Brownstown Central High School football uniform. She thought that was appropriate since the parade leads up to the Rose Bowl college football game. Plus, it was even sweeter because she raised Grant to be an Ohio State University football fan and the Buckeyes were one of the teams in the Rose Bowl game.

Alicia customized the photo frame by putting a block O for Ohio State on the glass.

She also gave Eldridge messages of love written on tags to attach to three roses, and he and Blake Hackman, who accompanied him on the trip, placed them on Donate Life’s “Courage to Hope” float.

Eldridge then let Alicia know about a New Year’s Day surprise: Grant’s picture was going to be held by the former Pasadena Tournament of Roses president, Gerald Freeny.

“I was just thrilled that Grant was going to get to ride on the float,” Alicia said. “Never in my wildest imagination, my dreams or whatever did I think that I would see Grant on national television while I was watching the float pass. It was more than what I imagined.”

Alicia considers it divine intervention that Ohio State was in the Rose Bowl game, which the Buckeyes won 48-45 against Utah.

“Of course, I was kicking myself for not going there myself because it was like all of the stars aligned except for airline fare,” she said, smiling.

The Donate Life float featured the winged Lion of Venice from Italy’s Piazza San Marco or Saint Mark’s Square set amidst the Venetian Gothic architecture of the Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale and Venice’s gondolas and canals.

The floragraphs and lion sought to memorialize those who gave life by becoming an organ donor.

Freeny rode in the parade in 2019 when he was president, but this year, he rode as an organ donor recipient.

In February 1993, he was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct. As a result, he received a liver transplant July 12, 1993, at UCLA Medical Center.

He returned to good health until December 2011 when he was diagnosed with cancer again. This time, it was B-cell lymphoma in the stomach and back area, and he was put on chemotherapy right away.

As a result of this new cancer, Freeny’s kidneys and liver started to fail after taking multiple medications and undergoing chemotherapy. He received a second liver and a new kidney at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Freeny was one of 19 transplant recipients who participated in this year’s parade.

The Donate Life float wound up winning the Extraordinaire Trophy for most extraordinary float.

“It was overwhelming,” Alicia said of watching the parade on television and seeing the float. “I said on a Facebook post I was a puddle of tears, and I still am. I always thought that Grant was going to change the world or do things and see things that I would never get to see, that would be my hope, and it’s proving to be true.”

At BCHS, Grant played basketball for three years and then served as a team manager his senior year after suffering a fourth concussion. He also participated in football, baseball and track and field one year each and was a volleyball team manager one year.

Then heading to the University of Indianapolis in 2016, he was studying exercise science and earned direct admission into the athletic training master’s program.

Alicia said Grant would have thought it was pretty awesome to see Ohio State playing in the Rose Bowl, and she appreciates Eldridge and Hackman for helping Grant be honored in the parade.

“We’ve all lost loved ones, and if there’s anything that you can do to assist loved ones to grieve through the process, why wouldn’t you?” Hackman said. “If God places us in a place that we can assist someone to get through that process, by all means because we’ve all been there. When others help you, it helps, and that’s the easiest thing in the world we could have done. We were 10 feet from the float.”