ToquiNotes: Summersville Youth Provides Moment "Bigger than All of Us" at Wayne Jamison Field

By Jeff Toquinto on November 04, 2017 from ToquiNotes via Connect-Bridgeport.com

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's a look at last week's blog HERE.
 
There’s a really good chance you don’t know John Eary or his wife Patty Eary. There’s also a pretty good chance you don’t know their 10-year-old son John, who goes by the nickname “Lake” and has so since birth, which is pretty cool considering “Eary” is pronounced “Erie.”
 
John and Patti Eary live in Summersville, or more accurately a little place just off the Summersville path known as Mount Nebo. Until last weekend, there’s a good chance the family was never on most people’s radar here in Bridgeport and Harrison County. For a whole lot of people that all changed this past Sunday.
 
It changed in a big way. And it changed in a way for all the right reasons right there at Wayne Jamison Field.
 
Ever been part of a perfect day? A perfect moment?
 
Sunday, Oct. 29 was that day featuring that moment. If you just know that the day in question was the first round of the Bridgeport Midget team’s playoff game that they won by a 42-6 score against the Summersville Little Bears you wouldn’t know that the 6 was bigger than the 42.
 
If you were there you experienced it firsthand and know what that means. If you were not, you need to watch the video below just to get an idea of what took place and why youngsters on that day were part of something so much more valuable than the final score of a football game.
 
Before I get to the moment, it’s important to get back to the Eary family who made their way to Bridgeport last weekend for the game. They’re at all the games as their son is on the sidelines with the 10-11-12-year-olds that make up the roster for Summersville’s football team.
 
Lake Eary is one of the team’s managers. His father John is an assistant coach, primarily for the purpose that his son can be on the sidelines.
 
John “Lake” Eary earned the nickname before birth. He was nicknamed, his father said, by kids in the church youth group before ever making an appearance in this world.
 
John and Patty Eary probably didn’t mind. After all, having a child wasn’t necessarily something in the cards.
 
“When we were 19 years old we were told by doctors we couldn’t have children. Him being here is a miracle,” said John Eary. “It’s a blessing beyond belief.”
 
It’s a blessing, as many witnessed, that manifests itself to varying levels to people daily. Some days, the blessing is overwhelming such as the one this past Sunday.
 
Lake Eary was born with a condition known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It’s a debilitating disease that impacts the workings of the body’s muscles.
 
“He was diagnosed at one. We knew something was wrong when he was trying to walk,” said John. “For almost all of his life he’s been in a wheelchair, but he’s never let that hold him back. His attitude has always been upbeat.”
 
The attitude is important. John Eary said the average life expectancy for someone with SMA is 27 years. But, he’s confident Lake will outpace that mark – and not due to wishful thinking.
 
“I don’t think he’s got SMA as bad as most because typically there are two genes missing and although he’s missing one gene (SNM1), the other (SNM2) he has several of and that’s helping,” said John. “Plus, there’s a new medicine that the FDA just approve and he received his third injection (Friday prior to the game). It’s an injection he’ll take forever.”
 
While the new drug is still trying to take hold and eventually will be administered three times a year, Lake Eary is busy being a kid. His father said that Lake is a happy youngster.
 
“I can’t speak for him as to how he feels all the time, but I can tell you he’s very intelligent kid who is constantly happy. I won’t say that he wouldn’t like to be able to run or play, but I don’t think it eats at him,” said John. “His attitude is phenomenal and people are drawn to him.”
 
Count the members of the Summersville Little Bears team, the coaches and the fans as part of the group drawn in. In his first year as team manager, where his dad jokingly says Lake “thinks he’s the coach,” he’s fit in more than just nicely.
 
“It speaks volumes for everyone involved and I can’t begin to tell you what it means to Lake and all of us … Those kids huddle around his chair and they love him and he loves them,” said Eary. “No one picks on him and they don’t baby him. They treat him like one of their own and as a parent that’s what you hope for.”
 
Prior to the Bridgeport game, Summersville coach Russell Hatfield approached John Eary at a practice. He had to ask Lake’s father something.
 
“He walked over and told me what they were planning and if I was okay with it,” said John Eary. “I said it was certainly fine.”
 
What was being planned was to get Lake Eary involved in an actual game. The game, as it turned out, was the playoff game Sunday with Bridgeport. The coaches wanted to let Eary carry the ball and experience what it was like to be out on the field.
 
Of course, that required talking to the Bridgeport coaching staff to see if they would have a problem with it. Coach Jason McCall didn’t have to think twice.
 
“I immediately said yes. It was a no-brainer to say yes and I can’t think of any youth coach that would have said no. I was so committed to it, and I know our coaches and kids were too, that even had the game been close we would have figured out a way to make it happen because you knew right away it was bigger than the game,” said McCall.
 
With McCall’s agreement, the wheels were in motion. And late in the game Sunday, Lake Eary and his wheelchair made its way on to Wayne Jamison Field. 
 
“To me, the really great thing is that not only did our coaches and kids want to do this for Lake, but the Bridgeport coaches and kids wanted to do it as well,” said John.
 
With both teams lined up, Lake Eary got the ball. The fifth grader from Nicholas County not only had a convoy of blockers leading his way to the end zone, but he had Travis Jones breaking character from a public address standpoint to do an actual play by play call over the sound system as only Jones can do.
 
As Lake crossed the end zone, he was swarmed by his teammates. Shortly thereafter, the entire Bridgeport team swarmed him as well.
 
And they Bridgeport team wasn’t done.
 
“One of our coaches gives out a game ball for attitude or performance or sometimes both. This time, we had all the kids sign the ball and give it to (Lake). I thought no one had a better attitude than that young man and everyone agreed we should do it,” said McCall. “I’ve been coaching various sports for 20 years and that moment, including the game ball at the end, is right up there with the best I’ve ever experienced.”
 
The Eary family was more than appreciative for that gesture and the entire scenario that took place.
 
“Honestly, when you look at the big picture, what ended up taking place wasn’t just for us it was for everyone. I think that moment was bigger than Lake and meant to have an even bigger impact than just on Lake. It was bigger than all of us,” said John, as his voice cracked with emotion.
 
McCall, whose team plays Sunday at 6 p.m. back on the same field against Elkins, hit on that as well.
 
“Football might be important, but it’s not the most important thing. There are things on the football field beyond a playoff game and a victory. If we don’t teach our kids life lessons, particularly when the opportunity for one literally smacks you in the face, then we’ve failed as coaches no matter how many games you win or points you score,” said McCall. “This was one of those situations that was beneficial for everyone and you knew it before looking up in the crowd and seeing people crying on both sides of the field. Honestly, I feel fortunate we were the team they asked. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have been part of it.”
 
Lake’s mom Patti Eary was one of those who let the tears flow. And she’s still feeling a positive emotional flow.
 
“I still tear up when I watch that play over and over. I’m overwhelmed by it,” said Patti Eary. “This gesture meant everything, but it’s important because of what it showed.
 
“With all the hatred in the world right now, it’s important for people to open their eyes and slow down for a minute,” she continued. “If you look, and this was a perfect example, you can see that love can be shown with the simplest of gestures.”
 
That gesture means that years from now folks in Bridgeport, even if they don’t recall the names of the family and the young man, will recall the moment. That memorable moment beyond one’s self, when you get right down to it, is the best part of sports.
 
It’s about a child. It’s about a ball. It’s about having fun and living life – no matter the obstacles. If you can see that, you can see the blessing that John Eary can clearly see.
 
“He’s already talking about football for next year and begging me to coach basketball so he can help out … I can tell you that at times it’s a struggle, but he’s an amazing kid; a blessing,” said Eary. “I’m privileged to be his father.”
 
I think I can speak on behalf of those at the game this past week and say the privilege to get to know the Eary family is the community of Bridgeport’s privilege.
 
Editor's Note II: Top two photos shows Lake Eary with is Summersville teammates and with a smile he's famous for, while the bottom photo is a screen shot of his Sunday touchdown at Wayne Jamison Field. Top two photos courtesy of the Eary family.
 


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