Rally for Rowan: Colebert family overwhelmed by support after accident | Sports

As he had hundreds of times before, Rowan Colebert jogged down a steep, half-gravel, half-paved driveway toward Derrick Road.

Colebert, a second grader at George G. Blaisdell Elementary School and a dedicated athlete in Bradford’s youth sports community, had previously taken to the streets to get the newspaper, pick up the trash, and check the mailbox. He had even crossed it, and on May 29 he wanted to do it again.

After his younger brother’s fourth birthday party, Rowan’s mother, Amber Colebert, hired him to deliver party favors to the neighbors. Gift bags in hand, he trotted down the driveway, fully aware of the dangers ahead.

Rowan reached the shoulder and, as he had been taught, looked to his right first. But before he turned his head again, a car just a few blocks away caught his eye. And like any 8-year-old would, he took on an internal challenge.

Could he hit the car across the street? Wanting to find out, he drove off without ever looking to the left.

Rowan was sprinting north across the first lane when he was struck by an oncoming eastbound vehicle.

It was a mother’s worst nightmare.

“I don’t want to tear it up, it’s still so overwhelming,” Amber Colebert said Tuesday.

Instead, the accident sent Rowan Colebert’s family, friends, neighbors, coaches, teammates and community into a calm and coordinated outpouring of support in the moments immediately following and in the two weeks since.

Rowan’s neighbors and four youth sports teams provided hundreds of dollars worth of toys, gifts, food and an immeasurable amount of time, energy and support that shaped the opinion of Amber Colebert, a native of Eldred, and her family about the community where they live, changed .

“Coming from a small town has always been what I’ve known,” said Amber Colebert. “I would have expected something like this from Eldred, but I never expected that we would get so much support.”

Andria Nelson, the Coleberts’ next-door neighbor, heard the noise first and came running. A Registered Licensed Practical Nurse at Bradford Manor, she held his leg until paramedics arrived and applied a splint.

Shane and Tarren Trout, the neighbors who had left their driveway, ran down the street to come to Rowan’s aid. Shane pulled the shirt from his back and placed it on Rowan’s bleeding head.

The extent of his injuries required Rowan to be taken by ambulance to a makeshift loading zone at Forest Brook Park and transported via Mercy Flight to John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo.

Rowan suffered a comminuted fracture in his left leg, which required surgery. A plate and six screws were used to stabilize the bone, and a 15 cm laceration on the top and front of his head required 13 staples. Later, Rowan, who had been bleeding for almost four hours, had a hemoglobin of 6.4 and required a blood transfusion.

But once out of surgery, Rowan’s love of athletics – instilled in him by Bradford Sports – shone through. His first thought was that his baseball career was over.

“It was actually the first thing he said when he woke up,” Amber Colebert said. “The first thing he said was ‘My baseball career is over,’ which is not true now that he is making a full recovery. I just didn’t realize how much it meant to him.”

On the way to the hospital, Cpt. Daniel Colebert, Rowan’s father and member of the National Guard, posted an update on Rowan’s status on Facebook – a platform he is trying to avoid at all costs – and asked for thoughts and prayers.

The post captivated the community and garnered immediate support from Rowan’s sports teams.

“My husband doesn’t use Facebook; he hates Facebook,” said Amber Colebert. “And when Rowan and I landed in Buffalo, I had all these messages and I was like, ‘How do all these people already know what happened?’ And I got on Facebook and my husband had made a post.

“Initially we didn’t ask for anything, just thoughts and prayers, and then people kept asking, ‘What can we do?'”

To stave off nurturing pressure from Facebook, Amber Colebert started out by putting together an Amazon wish list of items to keep Rowan entertained during his recovery. The community went beyond their desires.

Rowan had been an enthusiastic member of the sports community prior to the accident. He played football for the Bradford Raptors, baseball with Derrick City Green in the Bradford Regional Little League, wrestling with Havers Hammers Wrestling Club and Bradford Youth Wrestling and football with Bradford United.

Havers Hammers Wrestling Club manager Jessica Havers and her team started the momentum.

With donations from wrestling families, Jessica and her husband, Mark Havers, the club’s owner, put together a basket of coloring books, crayons, toys, craft supplies, and video games for his Nintendo Switch gaming console.

“We sent out a link like a prayer afterwards. We just asked for prayers and encouraged people to send Amber a message,” Jessica Havers said. “And then we made a post on our Facebook page after hearing from Amber that she asked if any of the parents would like to put together a gift basket.”

The rest of Rowan’s sports teams followed suit.

After raising money via Facebook and Facebook Messenger, Raptors Football and Bradford Youth Wrestling coach Cam Snodgrass stopped by twice with gifts. Snodgrass provided Rowan with a Nerf toy gun, two autographed Buffalo Bills helmets, a set of Rowan’s favorite novels, coloring books and crayons.

“I reached out to Amber and asked if there’s anything you need or something Rowan wants to kill time about losing his summer,” Snodgrass said. “So she gave me a list of everything he does and we put together a big care package for him.”

Rowan spent two nights in the hospital before leaving on May 31. When he got home, he found the letters, gifts, and sentimental favors left by his baseball team.

Eric Haynoski, Rowan’s baseball coach, coordinated the creation of a banner that read “We Miss You #8” and hung it in the Coleberts’ front yard upon their arrival from the hospital.

During games without Rowan, Derrick City printed the number eight on their batting helmets and spray-painted a number eight in midfield. Additionally, Bradford Regional Little League President Jeremy Luna called to chat with Rowan and his family.

“The baseball team has done some of the most touching stuff,” said Amber Colebert. “I think it was one of the things that tugs at my heart the most.”

Bradford United presented gifts to Rowan at a U10 football game on Thursday to show his support during his recovery process. Rowan received a ball signed by all U10 players and a Bradford United team bag complete with shirts and caps.

“We just wanted to encourage him and let him and his family know that we support all our football players in times of need,” said Bradford United chief executive Patrick Conneely. “We want to make sure he knows, and his family knows, that we are there for him.”

Family and friends provided Rowan’s family with home-cooked meals, money to help with food and gas, and free haircuts to hide the wounds on his head.

The Derrick City Fire Department and Fireman Mackenzie Swanson came by in a fire truck and allowed Rowan and his brother to sit on top. And the Misery Bay Region of Sports Cars of America in Erie — one of Daniel and Rowan’s favorite places to race — raised more than $700 for gifts internally via Facebook.

“All we knew was that he was going to be in a cast all summer, which is unfortunate, so we wanted to make sure at least a couple of those days were fun,” the tech chair for Misery Bay Sam Mehler said. “So we just called our members.”

More than two weeks after the accident, Amber Colebert insists it was a “real accident”.

“I mean, he just wasn’t looking,” Amber Colebert said. “That’s why I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Are you going to sue the driver?

“My husband went over and spoke to (the driver) at the scene of the accident and has been in touch with him a couple of times. I know he’s beating himself up pretty badly.”

Instead of pondering how May 29 could have been different, Amber Colebert reiterates that Rowan is alive — the most important fact to her.

“Rowan’s here and he’s safe and he’ll be perfectly fine and that’s what matters,” said Amber Colebert.

Doctors last week told Rowan to plan a full recovery when adapted to crutches. The news has finally given Amber Colebert some relief and time to reflect.

Amber Colebert thinks back to the actions of the community with a quiet moment, and it almost brings her to tears. She concluded that her family lives in a much more caring and compassionate area than she could have imagined.

“I expected the baseball team’s endorsement just because he’s actively involved in it,” said Amber Colebert. “But everything we got was very overwhelming in a good way. Rowan made a comment to me and my husband the other day.”

“I knew you guys loved me,” Rowan said. “But I didn’t realize that everyone else loved me.”

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