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Players’ gestures show support for crash victims

Players’ gestures show support for crash victims

Athletes from around the Capital Region and beyond have offered gestures of concern and support sinc

Before the Siena College game against Rider College on Friday at the Times Union Center, Saints star forward O.D. Anosike publicly urged fans to wear Shaker blue and Shenendehowa green.

When the Shenendehowa Plainsmen took the ice on the same evening, the opposing Mamaroneck Tigers’ goalie wore a green armband around his jersey. After the game ended, he handed the armband over to the opposing Shen player in a move of solidarity.

Athletes from around the Capital Region and beyond have offered similar gestures since the horrific Northway accident that killed two Shenendehowa High School students and badly injured 17-year-old Shenendehowa senior Matt Hardy and 17-year-old Shaker High School senior Bailey Wind as they returned home from a Siena game last week. They’ve received calls from several professional athletes and visits from players like Anosike —all having been emotionally touched by the widely publicized crash that killed 17-year-old seniors Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers.

“This is something that really hit home for me,” Anosike confided before his game Friday. “They were there showing their support for us … I wanted to get the story out and let people know to support them.”

The week has featured a whirlwind of posts to professional athletes on Twitter, starting with a campaign that drew national attention on Monday. Tens of thousands of users on the social networking site bombarded New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow with messages, urging him to call Hardy at the hospital.

Simultaneously, they waged an effort to get Olympic diver Missy Franklin to call Wind, who is a diver for Shaker and has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Tennessee next year.

First Tebow called Hardy. Then Franklin left a message with Wind.

Friends of the teens have also rallied to get Olympic diver Tom Daley to call Wind. Wind received a call from famed Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis this week. Hardy also received a call from New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain.

Tebow, who later confessed he doesn’t use Twitter too often, was alerted to the barrage by one of his friends about two hours after it started.

The former Heisman Trophy winner found a number someone posted on the site and called it, only to find a very skeptical teenager on the other end.

“It took a few minutes to convince them,” he said in an interview released by the Jets Thursday. “I promise it’s really me.”

When Tebow did get to talk to Hardy, the conversation left the Jets player in awe. He offered words of encouragement to Hardy, but said the injured teen’s resilience in the face of overwhelming pain and tragedy was something that left him inspired.

“For dealing with everything that he’s dealing with, losing his friends [and] his girlfriend, and the injuries that he has, it just puts everything into perspective to know that all this trivial stuff right here, we care about it, but it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “That’s something that, in all this craziness, if [that is] what you want to call it, that’s something that matters. It keeps everything in perspective and it was definitely the best thing that I’ve been able to do in a while. It was also inspiring for me.”

Anosike, who was among the masses that helped the Tebow campaign, presented autographed basketballs to the injured teens with several teammates at Albany Medical Center Hospital Wednesday, several hours before Wind was released from the hospital. Hardy, who suffered multiple broken bones, was finally allowed home Thursday.

“It really put things in perspective,” Anosike said of the accident.

Now the teens will now start the long road to recovery along with the families and Shen community that lost two popular students. The district braced for another day of emotion with the wake for Stewart on Friday and his services slated for this morning.

Juan de la Rocha, the coach of Shen’s varsity hockey team, pushed Friday’s game back a half hour and scheduled a game in Saratoga Springs today for later in the afternoon, so members of the team could pay their respects. Players are also wearing decals on their helmets bearing the initials of Stewart and Rivers with the numbers they wore for Shen.

“They were definitely all impacted,” he said.

But there’s also a sense that many of the students are ready to start healing. And Friday’s hockey game was a start, even if it was a small one.

“I think they want to get back to some normalcy,” de la Rocha said.

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