By KEVIN BRADY
Bryan ‘Geo’ Giordano is living on at Riverview High School.
The former offensive lineman, known for his easy-going nature and dedication to the school’s football team, died in January.
More than 300 friends and family, including the entire high school football team, were on hand May 17 for an unveiling ceremony for a player’s bench beside the football field named in his honor.
Friends shared stories about the football player’s life at the event, which was not a somber affair, said Principal Bob Heilmann who emceed the unveiling.
“He would not have wanted it that way. This was a celebration of Bryan’s life,” Heilmann said.
Bryan was an All-County in football selection and also played for the Brandon Steelers, Bears and East Bay Bucs. A video detailing his exploits on the gridiron has more than 4,100 page views on YouTube.
Although he graduated in 2010, Heilmann had no trouble recalling the imposing football standout.
“His smile was as big as his heart which was as big as his body,” said Heilmann who has been principal at Riverview for 12 years. “He was visible because of his size and was well respected by his peers and fun to be around. He loved life.”
Giordano was also not a quitter.
“We were going through some lean times on the football team at the time he was playing but he was always out there sweating. I often saw him encouraging and mentoring the younger players on the bench.”
An online campaign at Gofundme.com for the “Bryan Giordano Memorial Bench” was started in January to pay for the bench. The fundraising effort took in more than $2,000 within 48 hours and raised more than $2,300 from 43 different donors in total.
Within an hour of Bryan’s death, more than 100 members of his family and friends gathered on the Sharks’ football field.
“My youngest son, Will, asked if people could gather on the field and word spread quickly,” said Catherine Bramlett, an assistant principal at Riverview whose sons were friends with Bryan. “Everyone just prayed and shared memories.”
Asking what they could do to help the family in the wake of the tragedy, Principal Heilmann suggested memorializing Bryan with a bench beside the football field. Bryan’s aunt, Louise Bianchi, led the fundraising drive and quickly set up a website.
“They raised money so quickly some of us couldn’t even get on the website to donate,” Bramlett said.
A hard-tackling, muscled 6-foot, 295-pound standout on the football field — “Football at Riverview meant the world to him,” Bramlett said — there was also a deeply caring side to Bryan, recalled the assistant principal.
When a near fatal October 2011 car accident landed her oldest son in the hospital, Bryan was there to lend support to his teammate on the Shark’s football team. “He was in the hospital the night of the accident and throughout Jake’s recovery,” Bramlett said. “He was a very loyal friend.”
“The kindness and love that the family has received following this loss has been amazing,” said Louise Bianchi, Bryan’s aunt. “We cannot express enough gratitude to those who generously donated to this fund.”
The new bench is “exactly where Bryan would have wanted, in the middle of all of the action,” said Bianchi who set up the fundraising website.
“Thank you whole-heartedly for your support for the bench project,” said Linda Giordano, Bryan’s mother.
Bryan Giordano, 22, died after falling from a stage at Triple Canopy Ranch east of Lake Wales, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.