The BYU football community was shaken last November when Reno and Sunny Mahe announced that their 3-year-old daughter, Elsie, had died.
But now, Elsie Mahe’s legacy lives on.
A bright yellow billboard, hard to miss while driving through Utah County, features Elsie Mahe and her story of organ donation.
The National Kidney Foundation billboard reads: “Because Elsie donated, 5 lives are saved.” Elsie was in a tragic home accident in November 2016 and after a week in the hospital was pronounced brain-dead. But, the Mahe family wanted to make sure her organs were donated.
“It’s an honor to have a tribute for her. Just the whole organ donation and how many lives it can affect,” Reno said. “So, it’s kind of fun to thing that she’s been able to do that even in her passing.”
Typically, the billboard features college football coaches like current University of Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, or former BYU coaches like Bronco Mendenhall, Ron McBride and LaVell Edwards. Most recently, it featured Kalani Sitake and his entire staff.
The National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho, who sponsors the billboard, reached out to Reno to see if there was a way to honor Elsie Mahe. After only four months since Elsie’s death, Reno took the opportunity to surprise his wife with the tribute to their late daughter.
“My wife is not one to deal with processes, so I thought it would be a fun surprise for her,” Reno said. “So I worked it out (with the National Kidney Foundation).”
A video of Sunny Mahe’s heart-melting reaction of seeing the billboard, originally posted on the BYU football Facebook page, now has 144,000 views. But the rest of the family saw it later.
“(My kids) actually saw it later, like two days later. We drove by it going the other way, but they thought it was fun. They were like ‘It’s Elsie!'” Reno said.
Reno, who lives in Lehi, said he drives by the billboard every day on his way to and from the BYU football offices.
“It’s only been a few days since it has been up, but it’s fun to see her tribute every day,” Reno said.
In addition to the billboard, Reno found another way to honor Elsie. Late in BYU football’s 2016-17 season, he started wearing pink tennis shoes.
The running backs coach said as long as he’s allowed to, he’ll “always” be wearing pink in remembrance of Elsie.