JOSH’S HOMECOMING

The Josh of #JoshStrong is home in Columbus.

Josh Speidel’s mother, Lisa, posted on social media Thursday that the family was bringing the Columbus North senior home, marking the next phase of the #JoshStrong marathon.

The family left Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, where Speidel had been treated since March 23, at midmorning and traveled back to Columbus.

It has been 117 days since Speidel was critically injured in a car accident Feb. 1 near Taylorsville.

“We are trying to enjoy the moment,” Lisa Speidel texted as the family headed into Columbus.

Josh Speidel started sending his own messages via Twitter on Saturday, thanking everyone for their support and prayers.

He followed up with Thursday morning’s tweet, “I’m going home.”

Solidly behind Speidel

The standout basketball player’s gutsy recovery efforts, and the support that came from all over the country including future teammates at the University of Vermont, inspired friends and even strangers to root for the young man.

And they put donations to the family behind that support, responding to a gofundme online site established by North classmate Keirsten White after the accident.

Nearly 600 donors had donated about $77,000 as of Thursday afternoon toward a $100,000 goal.

The site has attracted donations from small dollar amounts to those in the thousands. Among those who donated to the fund and encouraged others to do so were Dan Dakich, who played basketball and coached at Indiana University and promoted the fund on his Indianapolis radio show, and Pat McAfee, the Indianapolis Colts punter.

Vermont head men’s basketball coach John Becker traveled to Methodist Hospital’s critical care unit in Indianapolis on a snowy night Feb. 4 to comfort the family and offer support, saying the accident was every parent’s worst nightmare.

Many University of Vermont fans who heard what happened to their basketball recruit donated at the gofundme site, sending well-wishes that they wanted to someday see Speidel on Vermont’s basketball court.

Fundraisers continue

As the family settles in back in Columbus, friends are organizing a fundraiser at Chevrolet of Columbus to raise money to purchase a handicap-accessible van for the family.

A cookout will be held 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the dealership, 3560 N. National Road, and donations will be accepted at the dealership throughout the week.

It’s one more in a series of them.

People came in force for a spaghetti fundraiser dinner before North’s home game Feb. 3 — two days after the accident — against Hamilton Southeastern. It raised $8,601.

The North and Hauser girls basketball teams seized an opportunity to fill holes in their schedules with a benefit game Feb. 7. All proceeds raised were to benefit the Speidel family. After the game, players from both teams wore #JoshStrong T-shirts, met at the center of North’s court, locked hands and prayed for Speidel.

The first South Central All-Area All-Star games were held April 7 as a fundraiser for the Speidel family, when 500 people packed Columbus Christian High School gymnasium to watch the game and support their friend.

“It shows the God in everyone,” Dave Speidel, Josh’s father, said of the turnout.

Josh Speidel would have played in such an all-star game if he were able.

The North star was selected on Feb. 23 as the first player named to the Indianapolis Star Indiana All-Star Team, which will play the Kentucky high school all-stars June 12 in Lexington and June 13 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“It really was not that complicated,” All-Star game director Charlie Hall said of Speidel’s selection at the time. “It was the right thing to do.”

During his four-year high school career, Speidel finished as Columbus North’s all-time leading scorer (1,512 points) and rebounder (699). His senior season, he was averaging 25.6 points and 9.3 rebounds at the time of his auto accident.

Special relationships

Among those who have been closest to the Speidels during their personal ordeal have been Jason Speer, Josh’s varsity basketball coach, and his wife, Julie.

Parents Lisa and Dave Speidel, who named their son after Joshua from the Old Testament who was a leader, strong and courageous, said they have been blessed to have the Speers join them through their struggle.

“Jason and Julie have been remarkable,” Lisa Speidel said in late March. “We have a love for them. Our families have come together and it’s their journey, too.”

Graduation plans

Columbus North High School is anticipating that Josh Speidel might be at commencement ceremonies at 1 p.m. June 6.

School officials plan to meet with the Speidel family next week to prepare for his possible return to the high school for graduation and prepare for any accommodations that might be necessary, Principal David Clark said.

“Josh would not be the first student to graduate in a wheelchair,” Clark said.

His classmates and the entire school hope that Speidel will take part in the ceremonies, but how much of a part will depend on the family’s wishes and his needs, Clark said.

There will be a great deal of support from the estimated 500 graduating seniors, and school officials fully expect a great welcome for Speidel as he would cross the stage, the principal said.

However, school officials also hope to make the day as normal as possible for everyone, and to remember that the day is special for each graduate, he said.

Speidel’s recovery will probably be mentioned in at least one of the seniors’ graduation speeches, if not more, Clark predicted.

“It’s part of a continuing miracle,” he said of the senior’s return home. “Whatever is happening, it’s part of that miracle.”

Republic sports editor Jay Heater contributed to this report.

Josh Speidel accident/recovery timeline

Feb. 1: Columbus North High School senior Josh Speidel, his school’s all-time leading scorer in boys basketball, is critically injured in an auto accident near Taylorsville. Having suffered serious head trauma, he is taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he will be cared for in the neuro critical care unit.

Feb. 11: Besides the head trauma, doctors treat Speidel for pneumonia at Methodist Hospital, where is listed in critical but stable condition. The 18-year-old is breathing on his own, but sometimes uses a ventilator to give his body a chance to rest. He is in a medically induced coma.

Feb. 16: Speidel transfers to Select Specialty Hospital, a long-term care facility in Indianapolis, where doctors felt his medical condition could best be stabilized.

Feb. 23: Speidel opens his eyes for the first time at Select Specialty Hospital, and in days to follow is able to keep his eyes open for longer periods, in addition to displaying more body movements. He is still in a coma, however.

March 12: Out of his coma, Speidel is able to stand using a tilt table at the hospital.

March 17: While North girls basketball coach Pat McKee visits, Speidel gives him a high-five hand slap, followed by a traditional shaking of hands.

March 23: Speidel is transferred to Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana.

March 27: Speidel, still hospitalized, is named Republic Player of the Year in boys basketball. Meanwhile, the Speidels are limiting the number of hospital visitors so Josh’s brain has more time to heal from his injuries.

April 17: Speidel says his first word since the accident: “Mom.”

May: Speidel works with rehabilitation, building up his strength and endurance, taking steps by using a walker and with the help of staffers.

Thursday: Released from the hospital, Speidel returns with his family to his Columbus home.

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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.