As I stood along a wall in a packed church several weeks ago for the memorial service of Bandon resident Todd Freitag, three thoughts entered my mind.
First, Todd had a huge impact on the community ... much more than I ever realized.
The evidence included the overflowing crowd in the church and the huge American flags that had been raised from trucks both near the church and near the Barn, the Bandon community center where the reception was held.
I never knew Todd very well, but know his wife, Courtney, and his kids, Kyle and Raelyn, from covering Bandon sports as part of my job.
As I listened to story after story during the service, the second thought became clear to me: the wildlife in Coos County and beyond is safer now.
The tales of Todd’s hunting and fishing prowess brought laughter to the crowd, helping offset the mourning for the lost community member.
I’ve never been much of a fisherman and never fired a gun at an animal, but I love a good hunting tale ... a trait honed from reading many Patrick McManus stories (look him up if you haven’t heard of him). I learned quickly that old Pat, who also died relatively recently, had nothing on Todd.
The third thing I realized that day, and the one most pertinent to the present time, came while looking at all the Team Todd sweatshirts people were wearing that day.
I knew the community had embraced Todd and his family throughout his battle with cancer, but it struck me again in light of the news only days earlier of Pacific student Steven White being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
I told more than a few people that day that one of the best things that could come out of Todd’s experience would be many of the same community members throwing their thoughts, prayers and support behind Steven and his family.
And boy has the community come through.
A successful GoFundMe account helped generate some funds to offset the family’s expenses and then both Bandon and Gold Beach — the communities that flank the Port Orford-Langlois area where Pacific draws its students — got involved. That was fitting, since many kids in Bandon know Steven well and he played football for Gold Beach last fall as part of a cooperative agreement between the schools.
When Gold Beach visited Bandon for basketball, no admission was charged but a collection jar was set up for donations to the family. By the end of the night some $1,700 was raised — not including the many bracelets sold by family friend Allie Hennick, a Bandon student.
If you missed that game, you have another chance to participate and help out Thursday when Bandon visits Gold Beach. The Panthers also won’t charge admission and will pass donations on to the family.
Steven’s presence was one of the highlights of the game in Bandon. He might not be at Gold Beach on Thursday because Pacific hopes to be practicing for the Skyline League Tournament (the Pirates need to beat North Douglas at home Wednesday to advance). Steven’s ability to get back on the court for Pacific during his treatment has been one of the heartwarming highlights of the winter.
Either way, Gold Beach athletic director Kevin Swift has set a goal of at least $1,800 (not to suggest Kevin is ultra competitive, but he did point out in an email that it would be a higher number than the neighbors to the north brought in).
If you can make it, great. If you can’t, keep the good thoughts and the prayers going.
Steven can use all the support the greater community can generate.