CEDAR CITY — A newly installed plaque urging people to check “yes” in support of organ donation was unveiled Friday, honoring the memory of Grady Shakespear, who died three years ago when he was just over 9 months old.

Grady Shakespear’s parents, Erica and Travis Shakespear of Henrieville, speak about organ donation during plaque unveiling ceremony honoring their son, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 1, 2023 | Photo by Geneva Richards for St. George News / Cedar City News

“It means a lot to us to have our little boy in here, on this plaque,” said Grady’s father Travis Shakespear during his brief remarks shortly before the sign was uncovered inside the Utah Driver License Division’s office in Cedar City. 

“It means a lot to educate the people,” he added. “Organ donation impacts not only just the recipient themselves, but it could go as far as impacting generations.”

Friday’s ceremony, which was attended by more than two dozen family members and friends, came on the eve of the third anniversary of Grady’s death from bacterial meningitis on Dec. 2, 2020.

At the time of Grady’s passing, his heart was given to an infant girl, while his kidneys were each transplanted into adult male recipients, Grady’s mother Erica Shakespear told Cedar City News via phone beforehand. The Shakespears live in the small Garfield County town of Henrieville.

Erica Shakespear said she and her husband decided to donate their son’s organs after seeing another family at Primary Children’s Hospital whose young son was awaiting a liver transplant.

“That is part of the reason why we chose donation for Grady, is because we watched that family,” she said. “We can’t bring our baby home, but someone else will be able to fully decide to let him be an organ donor.”

Grady Shakespear is held by his parents Travis and Erica Shakespear during his hospitalization at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2020. | Image courtesy of Shakespear family via Donor Connect, St. George News / Cedar City News

One month after Grady’s death, in January 2021, the Shakespears founded the Gifts from Grady Foundation to raise funds and help spread awareness about organ donation. 

“The money that we raise, we find other donor families or transplant recipients and we help them pay medical bills and funeral costs that are not covered under insurance,” Erica Shakespear explained. 

“As soon as organ donation is agreed upon, Donor Connect takes over the costs from that point forward,” she added. “It’s just a matter of getting there.”

Brady Dransfield, public education manager for Donor Connect, explained the organization’s mission and purpose as he welcomed those in attendance on Friday.

“We save and heal lives by providing compassionate care for donor families and their loved ones, and we also provide education to the public,” Dransfield said. “This plaque is going to be part of that public education and awareness, of what and who true heroes are, as Grady is a hero.”

Added Dransfield: “We hope that this plaque inspires the public when they come in here to sign up or renew their driver’s license, to select yes as an organ donor. And to really think about what that means, not just putting a check on that piece of paper, but really deeply, the impact that it has.”

Dransfield said that nationwide, an estimated 104,000 people are awaiting life-saving transplants in the United States, including more than 800 in Utah.

“The majority of those people are just waiting,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately, we don’t have enough people to mark and match the donations needed. Imagine if you were one of those persons on that waiting list. Would you be willing to receive an organ, a life-saving miracle? If so, then you should also be willing to donate.”

Dransfield then concluded his remarks by saying, “Speaking of heroes like Grady, he definitely made an impact. And like Grady, together we can make a difference by selecting yes to organ, eye and tissue donation.”

Travis Shakespear said that deciding to donate Grady’s organs “has been more help to us for healing and dealing with the grief, than probably anything.”

Grady Shakespear’s extended family members pose in front of plaque inside the Cedar City office of Utah Driver License Division, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 1, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

He also spoke of how gratifying it is to help both donor families and recipients through the foundation. 

“Every time we donate, cut a check to somebody, it puts a little bit of (a) piece back into that hole that we’re missing in our heart,” he said.

Erica Shakepear then added a few words after her husband had finished his remarks.

“It’s been a long, three years, but it’s been a good three years,” she said. “And we’ve made a lot of friendships that we couldn’t have made without having this experience. We love Grady and we are so honored to be his parents and be able to help choose organ donation for him.”

Erica Shakespear also thanked all those who’d made the trip to attend the ceremony, along with officials and staff with both Donor Connect and with Utah Department of Public Safety.

“Thanks for driving over today,” she said. “And thank you, Cedar City Driver’s License Division, for letting our little boy hang in here, and hope that we can continue to impact and let Grady’s legacy live on.”

For more information about Gifts From Grady, visit the foundation’s website.

To learn more about organ, tissue and eye donation, visit the Donor Connect website, email info@donorconnect.life or call 801-521-1755.

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