NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - Friends and family of a 20-year-old man who was gunned down while delivering pizzas earlier this year gathered Tuesday morning to put the finishing touches on a memorial that will be seen by millions.
Maraleius Gardner-Birdsong will be recognized by LifePoint and Donate Life South Carolina with a "floragraph", an artistic floral portrait, on the 2013 Donate Life Rose Parade Float. A ceremony was held Tuesday morning at LifePoint Office in North Charleston to make last minute adjustments before the floragraph is shipped to Pasadena, California for the New Years Day parade.
The North Charleston man opted to become an organ donor when he obtained his driver's license. Five of his organs were donated, saving the lives of four people, including his cousin in Indiana who was battling kidney disease.
Three other people in South Carolina received Gardner-Birdsong's other kidney, pancreas, liver and heart. Additionally, his donated corneas have allowed two people to see again.
This will be the first time a Lowcountry resident has been honored on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. The commemoration was made possible by Columbia based biotechnology company, Bridge to Life.
"The Rose Parade, by itself, is an absolutely spectacular event, and a wonderful way to ring in the New Year," said Aaron Gilchrist, National Sales Director at Bridge to Life. "Honoring families of organ donors like Maraleius' makes it that much more special."
Over 40 million people are projected to watch the Rose Parade on television, and thousands more are expected to be in attendance. Several of Gardner-Birdsong's recipients are making plans to be at the parade to honor him.
"Our family has now experienced the blessings of both donation and being recipients. Two of our uncles received heart transplants. I'm so honored that his life is being celebrated in this way by Donate Life," said Maraleius' mother Teresa Gardner. "His earthly life has ended, he'll be forever in our hearts, sorely missed and never forgotten."
Gardner-Birdsong was delivering a pizza at the Appian Way apartments on March 9, 2012 when police say he was robbed and murdered by 19-year-old Stephawn Brown and 17-year-old Jontae Demetrius Davis.