t didn’t matter that Columbus North senior basketball star Josh Speidel was still in a coma in the intensive care unit at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
North sophomore Karli Reynolds sent the text message anyway.
“We all miss you.”
Reynolds, who plays for the girls basketball team, has been grieving since Speidel’s auto accident near Taylorsville on Sunday evening left him in critical but stable condition. On Tuesday evening, she was able to share that grief, and the hope that Speidel will recover, with a throng of Speidel supporters.
“I texted him twice today,” said Reynolds, who volunteered her time at a benefit dinner to raise money to help pay Speidel’s medical expenses.
“I knew he wouldn’t get it.”
The text message, that is.
Somehow, though, sending it made her feel better.
Senior cheerleader Taylor Kuhfahl, who also was volunteering her time to serve food and paint faces in North’s cafeteria, understood.
“You feel all the love and support,” Kuhfahl said as she scanned the crowd that grew to more than 500 people. “He will make it through.”
Cindy McCoy, who works for the North athletics department, put together the benefit in a day’s time. Raising funds was only part of the reason.
“People need to be together,” McCoy said. “They have a joint cause.”
McCoy knew the community needed an outlet to support Speidel and each other, so she started calling local restaurants and businesses to see if they would donate food and beverages with proceeds going to the Speidel family.
Not one person turned her down, allowing McCoy to gather enough items from 12 local businesses to host the event.
“And now look at all these people. They are all here to support Josh. I can’t talk anymore because I am going to end up crying,” she said.
Emotions ran high at both the dinner and North’s basketball game against visiting Hamilton Southeastern, which wore #JoshStrong T-shirts during their warm-ups and on the bench. Hamilton Southeastern also presented North Athletics Director Jeff Hester with funds collected by the school’s athletic boosters to benefit Speidel.
In the stands, Columbus East basketball players were sitting behind North’s bench, but the Olympians weren’t easy to spot without their usual orange clothing. They were wearing North’s colors to honor Speidel, with his jersey number 32 on the back of each shirt. Not far from East’s players sat the Columbus Christian basketball players, whose practices were also canceled so they could show their support.
Many in the crowd of more than 2,000 had tears in their eyes as a moment of silence was observed to offer thoughts and prayers for Speidel, North’s all-time leading scorer, followed by the national anthem.
North girls basketball seniors Ali Patberg and Debie Gedeon were among those selling #JoshStrong T-shirts. More than 200 were scooped up in less than 30 minutes before they ran out.
“It’s kind of hard to believe,” Gedeon said of the line that wrapped along one side of the cafeteria buffet line, out the door and down the hall. “It shows we are one community.”
Gedeon and Patberg were among those who raced to Methodist Hospital after hearing the news of Speidel’s accident Sunday evening. They stayed until about 3 a.m. Monday.
“We knew we weren’t going to see him,” Gedeon said. “Part of the reason we went was for each other. It was more peaceful than being at home.”
It was somewhat the same Tuesday evening, when supporters gathered to share their fears, concerns and hopes.
“It’s horrible, especially for the boys who played with Josh,” said Brenda Schoeberl, whose son Drew is a senior football player and a former Bull Dogs basketball player.
“You’ve got football moms and basketball moms and moms of kids who aren’t athletes, all helping out here. And what I think is most awesome is not just the restaurants and the churches coming together, but East and North coming together. These kids spend a lot of time being rivals.”
Schoeberl said all those positive thoughts have got to make a difference.
“The power of prayer,” she said. “I definitely believe it will be helpful for Josh, and also for his family and friends.”
The fundraiser and the game did seem to have some healing properties, despite the 64-49 outcome in Hamilton Southeastern’s favor.
“It’s been tough,” Reynolds said. “We’ve all been a mess.
“But this is everyone coming together. Josh is just a guy, but people love him. He has such a good heart.”
Back at Methodist Hospital, Lisa and Dave Speidel monitored the progress of their son. In a telephone conversation, Lisa Speidel was told about the outpouring of love and support at the dinner.
“I would just like to say that we are real appreciative,” Lisa Speidel said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I know that ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem like enough, but ‘Thank you.’
“We are humbled, and we are blessed by it all. This is not about basketball. This is about helping a great kid. It is amazing to us that Josh has touched all these people,” she said.