When the Seymour and Columbus North boys basketball teams meet on the court, it’s normally all about who’s going to win.
But Wednesday night at Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium, any sort of rivalry was pushed aside, and they were united for Speidel Night.
It was all for Columbus North senior player Josh Speidel, who was seriously injured in a car wreck Feb. 1 near Taylorsville. He remains in a coma at Select Specialty Hospital in Castleton but is going through physical therapy and making progress.
Both teams wore warm-up T-shirts in their school colors, but the words were the same — #JoshStrong on the front and “Speidel” and his jersey number, 32, on the back.
“There’s so much focus on the rivalry and the competition of the sports teams,” said Lisa Wieneke, who helped organize Speidel Night. “It’s nice to show that competition is great, but behind that, there’s so much more to it, that we’re all here to support each other.”
Wednesday marked the second time Speidel’s parents, Lisa and David, have been able to make it to a Bull Dogs game since their son’s wreck.
The other instance was for Columbus North’s senior night. Lisa Speidel said that was emotional because it was their first time going past the wreck site and first time being back in Columbus and walking in the gymnasium.
Being at Wednesday’s game was important to the Speidels because they both work in Seymour. Lisa is the assistant principal at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, and David works at Frontier Communications.
“We wanted to make sure that we are supporting these boys from Columbus North,” Lisa Speidel said. “Those boys are Josh’s best friends, and we wanted to be here for him to support them. To be able to come down and do this is incredible.”
The family has received support from all over the world — some people they know, some they don’t know. David and Josh went on a mission trip to France a couple of summers ago, and they recently received a picture with those kids holding up #JoshStrong signs.
“Complete strangers reaching out, people that say, ‘You don’t know me, but I just want to give you some hope,’” Lisa said. “Moms came to Methodist (Hospital) with the their sons and said, ‘This is what a miracle looks like. It can happen.’”
The Speidels encourage any kids visiting the hospital to talk to Josh.
“We tell them, ‘He’s there, and we believe he’s hearing you, so talk about school, talk about games, just have normal conversations,’” Lisa said. “They have just rallied around him.”
All of the support has helped Lisa and David stay strong, and they have shared it all with Josh.
“We read everything to him, constantly talking about the support. We firmly believe that that’s getting him through,” Lisa said.
“We believe that God is in control of all of this,” David added.
Proceeds from Speidel Night will go to the family for medical expenses. The event included a dinner, bake sale and silent auction. Also, Seymour’s student government sold 119 #JoshStrong T-shirts, and Prestige Printing of Columbus and Brown Elementary students made signs to hang up around the gym.
“It’s good for them to see that other schools are supporting them,” said Janet Pollmann, who also helped organize the event. “Nobody should have to go through that.”
During halftime of the junior varsity game, the Brown Bouncing Bears jump rope team performed while wearing specially made #JoshStrong T-shirts.
“We just thought that might be a neat way to give Mrs. Speidel our support and show that we’re united,” Brown literacy coach Bridget Longmeier said.
On Wednesday, the #JoshStrong gofundme.com site topped $60,000 in donations.
“The generosity and the heart of people and my faith in people, it has renewed that,” Lisa Speidel said. “There are people that we don’t even know that are pulling and cheering for Josh, and they want to support. It’s overwhelming.”
The best part of it all is that Josh is making progress. The 6-foot-8 senior has been recruited to play basketball for NCAA Division I University of Vermont.
“We’re just seeing so many baby steps right now that he’s trying to do things, and I believe he’s fighting so hard inside,” David Speidel said.
“There’s a big picture for this. There’s a big plan for this and for Josh,” Lisa Speidel said. “We firmly believe that he’s healing right now.”