#26 Strong

Joey Hervatine, Staff Writer

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On August 31st, 2018, The Laurel Spartans took on the Rochester Rams. In the third quarter after a holding call, 21 out of the 22 players on the field returned to their huddles. The crowds of both teams remained breathless as Laurel’s Hayden Hamilton remained motionless for over 15 minutes after the play. He was loaded into an ambulance stationed at the field and, according to assistant coach Jeff Smiley, transported to UPMC Jameson Hospital, and was then taken by medical helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital. Laurel athletic director Mike Krol confirmed that Hamilton was transported, first by ambulance, then by medical helicopter. After the game, players from both teams joined at center field in prayer. The next day Hayden underwent 2 surgeries that lasted up to 9 hours. His first operation was done while he was lying on his back and doctors repaired damage to vertebra 5, gaining access to it through his throat. The second surgery was done with him lying on his stomach and doctors accessing the spinal area through the back of his neck to realign some vertebrae that were out of place. As the days went past he gained feeling almost everywhere in his body, starting from his arms and hands down to his lower extremities, but he could not move anything. The first steps to his recovery, according to his mother, were meeting with his physical therapists to set goals and start to put a plan in place to achieve his goals. Hayden’s spirits were high as he had visits from his football coaches, teammates, and friends. Even considering his condition, he said “this wasn’t going to change who he is. He’s going to be the same person as he was. This isn’t going to make him any different.” according to his mother. But getting visits from friends and family wasn’t the only efforts going on to support Hayden in his time of need. His football team, the Laurel Spartans, honored him in their first game without him during the pregame ceremonies and displayed his white No. 26 jersey on the home sideline. Coach Brian Cooper and his staff wore shirts that said “26 Strong” as they won big time against Bishop Canevin. Since his injury the Laurel community and Western Pennsylvania as a whole held multiple fundraising efforts for the Hamilton family. Numerous Lawrence County Schools, including Mohawk collected donations during football games for the family, in addition to a GoFundMe account that has gained over 70,000 dollars so far towards the family. The Indianapolis Colts safety, Malik Hooker out of New Castle, sent Hayden a signed jersey of his to Hayden, while a high school football team in Seattle found out about Hayden’s injury and are wearing stickers bearing his No. 26 on their helmets. Another effort from Mohawk to support the tragic event included our cheerleaders wearing green shirts with Hayden’s name on them during our football game against Neshannock. “It’s unbelievable! I’ve never seen heard or witnessed anything like it. I know I have a special kid, but for everybody else to know that without even knowing him, it brings a smile to my face” his mother said   After a week of being at UPMC Children’s Hospital, he was moved to a rehab facility on September 8th as he began to try to regain his movement back. In efforts to reach out to Hayden, his girlfriend, Karly Mccutcheon relayed a questioned for him “How do you have so much strength and positivity with the situation given to you?” Hayden responded with “ I have always been a very positive person and it helps to have to support of my family, friends, and the community to get me through these tough times. I wouldn’t let this injury change me or get me down” . Every single day Hayden has shown amazing strength and integrity to reach his goals in spite of the devastating injury that happened to him. Hayden is and will always remain a role model to everyone in the world that hears about his situation.