Special gift given to young man paralyzed by rare condition

Tory Griffin gets surprise room makeover for his 20th birthday

By Mary Baer - 5, 6 & 10 p.m. anchor , Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - News4Jax first introduced you to Tory Griffin a year and a half ago when he was suddenly paralyzed from a rare condition. Since then, he's moved out of the hospital and is now living at home with his mother and five siblings.

Tory was hospitalized last year at UF Health after suffering sudden paralysis. At the time, doctors said they weren't sure what his prognosis would be.

WATCH ORIGINAL STORY: Tory Griffin hospitalized with rare condition

But fast forward to this week. Tory is now celebrating his 20th birthday, and we were there as friends and family gathered, singing "Happy Birthday" and playing music -- one of Tory's favorite things.

"I feel a lot better since I've been home and I go around and I see family," Tory said. "I've been to Atlanta to see my grandma, and my mom does an awesome job taking care of me. I wanna thank her for that, you know."

As part of his birthday celebration, a special gift: a surprise makeover of the room where he spends much of his time. Thanks to volunteers, he was given a newly-improved media room, complete with a flat screen TV, striking red and black brick, and a fireplace safe for his younger siblings.

"I like everything. It just blew me away," Tory said about seeing his new room for the first time. 

WATCH: Full interview with Troy Griffin

Tory, a passionate musician, was thrilled to be serenaded on his special day by his Lee High School Band director Donald Jenkins.

"He has a natural gift of music, and we're hoping that his gift and love of music will inspire him to recover fully," Jenkins said.

Also at his celebration, twin brothers: one a saxophone player, the other a soldier. PFC Marlon Perry is touched by Tory's story and shared an inspirational poem he wrote as a young man.

"To see the influence that my twin has had on me through the years, keeping me positive, keeping me moving in the right direction, now the same can be the case for Tory," Perry told News4Jax. "He may not be able to move in the same way, but that doesn't mean that he can't still move mountains."

This special birthday all came together by a handful of self-described "girls," who just want to do good. They donate room makeovers for chronic and terminally ill children every year. They call themselves "Designs from the Heart."

"He's so selfless. He's just a special guy, so I feel like Designs from the Heart, we leave each project feeling like we end up with more than we left, you know. They're special kids. They're special families," said Michelle Tipton.

"She asked me, would I volunteer and would I become a part of Designs from the Heart. And I was like, 'yes, yes,'" said Arnessa Mitchell. "This is, it was all a Godsend, that's the way I see it."

Tory's mom, Tawanda Gallion, can't get over the hope her son has now. She has been caring for him day and night since he came home from the hospital.

"We just got approved for some nurses to come in," she said. "And we also got approved for PT and OT, so we have been waiting for all this and we are very excited." 

Tory now appears to have a renewed purpose with lofty goals. He tells News4Jax he intends to teach himself multiple languages and become an interpreter. He is determined to take care of his family.

There is a GoFundMe account to try and raise enough money for a van, so Tory can get around. Also on his wish list is a piece of equipment that could help him stand and take steps.

Designs from the Heart also wants to thank Thompson Electric for donating time and expertise. Tory's room makeover couldn't have been done without them.

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