The athletes on the Madison County Tigers Special Olympics Softball Team each face their own particular personal challenges, primarily stemming from a developmental, intellectual or physical disability. They are affiliated with the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD).
During a mid-afternoon in August, the Tigers showed what they can do greatly outweighs what they sometimes struggle to do. The athletes demonstrated they had mastered a skill that sometimes gets overlooked.
Their compassion for others.
Traveling home from a difficult softball loss in Washington Court House, the Tigers were traveling in a caravan of vehicles including athletes, unified partners and parents. Coming upon a curve while approaching the meeting of State Route 38 and Interstate 71 near Bloomingburg, the first car in the Tigers automotive train noticed a car which was damaged on the road.
Even with other motorists passing by, Billy Fuller and athlete Waymond Harris pulled over to see if they could help. While Harris helped free a child from a car, other Tigers-filled vehicles followed suit — stopping to attend to the two adults and four children involved in what proved-to-be a horrific accident.
“It’s cool that they got out and just sprang into action,” said Lincoln Comer, Director of Special Olympics and Community Recreation for MCBDD. Comer was in a trailing vehicle. He was among the people who grabbed first aid kits and started assisting. “They were just amazing — consoling people, holding hands, and providing needed help until the ambulance and LifeFlight arrived.”
One of many who provided the much-needed assistance was athlete John Zeeck. Seeing a 4-year-old boy bleeding immensely, Zeeck knew he had to address the situation immediately. Without hesitating, Zeeck took off his shirt and applied pressure to the child’s wound.
“It was scary … I did not know what to do,” Zeeck said. “It is a day that I will never forget.”
Nor will the events of that day ever leave the mind of Courtney Holder, who minced no words when talking about Zeeck and the other volunteers who helped her and her family in the aftermath of their terrifying accident.
“The Tigers are amazing,” Holder said, through her tears. “They saved my son’s life.”
The two groups were recently reunited for the first time since the accident at the London Donato’s where Holder is an employee. The pizza was provided as a gesture by Donato’s manager Liz Taylor both in appreciation for the Tigers heroics, as well as in celebration of the accident victims’ recoveries.
“This is simply about people instinctively doing their best to help others,” said MCBDD Superintendent Susan Thompson. “This is a great example of why we are so proud every day of the people we serve, the volunteers, staff and families.”
According to Comer, the following individuals were “hands on” in some capacity on that day — John Zeeck, Chris Zeeck, Danielle Salters, Courtney Salters, Lincoln Comer, Billy Fuller, Waymond Harris, Jorge Gonzalez, Nate Gonzalez, Jerry Salters, Marlyn Zeeck, Cora Burks, Chad Burks and Chona Burks.
“It is easy just to drive by an accident scene,” Comer said. “But it takes real courage to stop and try to make a difference.”