For Mary and Ralf Reuland, the image of their son Konrad Reuland’s face appearing on this year’s Donate Life Rose Parade float is bittersweet.
On one hand, it’s a reminder that Konrad is gone. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity to remember his generosity — and inspire viewers worldwide to designate their organs for donation.
“Coming to these bigger events, it’s not like a dream world, it’s reality, and it hits us emotionally,” said Ralf Reuland, of San Juan Capistrano. “By the same token, it’s a very wonderful thing he’s being recognized among other donors, and bringing awareness to organ donation with such a huge platform like the Rose Parade is a phenomenal thing.”
This year’s Donate Life float’s theme is “The Gift of Time,” and that’s exactly the gift that Konrad Reuland gave about a year ago to baseball legend Rod Carew, who will ride on the float New Year’s Day. A football player at Mater Dei and Mission Viejo high schools, Stanford and the NFL, Konrad suffered a brain aneurysm at age 29 that claimed his life. Because he was a registered organ donor, his heart went to Carew.
Carew said he’s feeling strong these days, and he attributes that to Konrad’s heart beating in his chest.
“We’re always together, and we’re going to do good things together by spreading the word about organ and tissue donation,” Carew, 72, said.
With his physical therapy assignment mostly done, Carew said he’d like to travel with his wife, Rhonda, and continue to use his name and presence to promote organ and tissue donation. The Carews said they hope to get either or both MLB and the NFL to officially support the Donate Life campaign.
Carew also promotes heart health education via his “The Heart of 29” campaign in partnership with the American Heart Association. The campaign was named after Carew’s uniform number with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels, but it holds an even greater significance now because Konrad was 29 years old when he died.
Carew and Konrad met about 15 years ago at a middle school basketball game in Rancho Santa Margarita. Carew’s son and Konrad’s younger brother were teammates, and at one point teenage Konrad went up to Carew to introduce himself and to say that one day he hoped to be a professional athlete like him.
Mary Reuland told Carew later that Konrad was elated to have met him.
For Carew, the gift of time has several meanings — in this case, many years after Carew showed Konrad kindness by spending a few moments with him, Konrad gave Carew the greatest gift any person can give to another, Carew said.
Including Carew, a total of 75 people received organ and tissue donations from Konrad.
“I believe in the saying that if you do good, good will come back to you,” Carew said. “I hope people can come back into the lives of others to help.”
Those interested in becoming organ, eye or tissue donors can visit donatelife.net.