Sunday, May 1, 2011

Saturday's Jay, Michelle Reda benefit draws more than 1,000

It was amazing event for an amazing man - and and equally amazing woman.

While Saturday's fund-raiser in Eastlake for Reno "Jay" Reda and his wife Michelle was supposed to have cut off at the 800 registered guests and additional 500 people reportedly showed up.

Regardless of the official head count the party at the Croatian Lodge ran for more than six hours. Literally hundreds of items were available under live auctions, silent auctions and Chinese auctions.

The proceeds are intended to help pay for Jay Reda's cancer-fighting treatment. Jay's been diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer and his original troupe of doctors had given him just six months to live.

But the Reda's found an experimental program at Ohio State University and Jay was able to become enrolled in the expensive project, one that health insurance companies are not so inclined to fund.

Making matters even more complicated Michelle has undergone treatment for cancer as well. Her efforts appear to be paying off with conventional therapies.

To aid the Reda family in its life-threating ordeal, a group of their friends came together and determined to raise funds; an enabling that resulted in Saturday's outpouring of financial and humanitarian support.

All of which touched both Jay and Michelle.

"This is phenomenal; it's a tremendous show of love," said a teary-eyed Jay Reda.

Michelle echoed her husband's assessment when she said that the massive turn-out and the wall-to-wall donated items used as fund-raising tools was "absolutely amazing."

"Wow," was about all that Michelle could say.

The several hundred-strong extended Reda family took it all in stride on Saturday, noting that Jay's and Michelle's community-minded spirit and works deserved a rightful interest payment on the couple's deposit.

"Jay's touched and helped a lot of people from working with kids, his help with the Women in the Outdoors and his work at the Geauga County Fair," said Renee O'Brotka, a National Wild Turkey Federation WIO official

Having retired from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife, Jay Reda had developed many friendships with fellow officers, biologists and wildlife area technicians.

And many of these former co-workers never wavered in donating items for the auction and raffles. Likewise - and perhaps more importantly - they yielded their time to attend to the fund-raiser's many needs when they could have been out turkey hunting, enjoying a seemingly rare sunny Saturday or perhaps catching up on agency issues.

"I've known Jay for at least 20 years and this gathering is a celebration of all that he's done. To see it all come back as this, it's unbelievable," said Dennis Malloy, a former Wildlife Division officer and now an official with Whitetails Unlimited "We should all be so blessed."

Scott Denamen, the current state wildlife assigned to Geauga County, said Jay Reda left such an imprint on sportsmen and residents of that county filling his shoes has proven all but impossible.

"People still ask about Jay and some of them don't even know that's he been gone as their wildlife officer for 10 years," Denamen said. "Jay's certainly left a legacy in Geauga County."

And now the Reda's are facing the highest hill they've ever met. But with prayer, Jay Reda says, and the support of hundreds of friends it's a battle the couple say they are up to fighting together.

"I absolutely refuse to quit," Jay Reda said. "It's not over."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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