Homeward bound

HAYDEN — Jennings County youth football player Calvin Clark could head home from an Indianapolis hospital Thursday, the next step in his recovery from a serious head injury he suffered in a game Nov. 1.

Clark’s classmates and staff members at Hayden Elementary School, who have been raising money to help the Clark family, continue to wear #calvinstrong T-shirts and bracelets daily.

In his classroom, Calvin’s desk has been left untouched during his absence, except for the addition of Indiana University gear, posters and other gifts that students wanted to give him during his recovery.

And word that Calvin could be coming home this week has the school abuzz, Principal Brent Comer said.

“We are going to be so excited, so thrilled, when he can come through that doorway,” Comer said.

The Jennings County community has united behind Calvin and the Clark family since the football player collapsed during a Police Athletic Activities League tournament in Columbus, where he was competing as a fullback for the Jennings County Panthers Youth Football team.

He initially was listed in critical condition at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health after undergoing surgery to control bleeding in his brain. Since then he has made slow, gradual but remarkable improvements.

Late last year, he was moved into a rehabilitation wing and has been working hard to grow strong enough to be released.

Comer said Calvin is conscious and working to relearn many things that people take for granted, such as how to eat and talk, and having to learn many things at many levels.

“But we’re seeing continued small steps of improvement,” Comer said.

Milestones have included smiling at his parents, learning to swallow and eat and even fist-bumping, according to the family’s “#calvinstrong” Facebook page.

Photos of vehicles painted with “#calvinstrong” on the windows and the back of a pickup truck have been shared on the Facebook page.

The school doesn’t know officially when Calvin could return to the school for a visit after he returns home, the principal said.

School officials are being cautious with the Hayden students because there have been what Comer calls “bumps in the road” that delayed earlier dates that Calvin could have been released from the hospital.

“We’ve just kind of learned to be cautiously excited,” he said.

School officials plan to meet with the family and Calvin’s health care providers to make sure they can provide whatever is needed for Calvin to continue his recovery at home, Combs said.

After that meeting, they will consider when Calvin might be able to visit the school to reconnect with his classmates.

“We’ll be way overboard on that,” Combs said.

There will be no doubt that Calvin will know how much the school and his classmates have been supporting him, based on how students continue to wear their #calvinstrong gear every day, Combs said.

“I’ve got mine on right now,” Combs said of his bracelet.

How to help

Fundraising efforts to help pay the medical expenses of injured 11-year-old Jennings County football player Calvin Clark are being coordinated through Hayden Elementary School. Call the school at 812-346-2813 for more information.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.