Courage, Compassion, Morality

I would like to tell you the story of a very courageous young man and several other young men that made his dream come true. I am a teacher at James Wood High School, and several years ago I was approached by a student in the hallway who was very excited because I was wearing a WVU jacket. His name is Kevin Freeland, and Kevin is not an ordinary young man. He has the courage of a soldier, the compassion of a nurse, the innocence of child at their first Christmas, a love of WVU football like a seasoned Mountaineer, and the faith of a minister. Kevin also has an inoperable brain tumor that threatens his young life. In the past 5 years he has had 29 surgeries. At times he has had to learn how to walk, speak, and eat all over again. Complications from the tumor have also caused Kevin to need a tracheotomy to help him breath.

More than once Kevin’s gentle spirit and positive disposition has been the topic of conversation in the teacher’s lounge. Many of us have tried to make Kevin’s dream of meeting the WVU football team come true. A colleague of mine, Bruce Fowler, was able to make that happen. Bruce attends church with the parents of Nate Sowers, and Nate made it possible for Kevin’s dream to come true on April 11, 2008. I was lucky enough to be invited to come along, and the entire experience was one that I will cherish for all of my life.

Mike Kerin welcomed us to the practice facility around 4:00 in the afternoon. As we walked through the doors of the practice facility, Kevin had to literally be held in the standing position because his knees were shaking so badly. As we watched the team practice, Kevin, was awestruck. He was screaming for Pat White, almost passed out when he realized that the person he had just bumped into was in-fact Noel Divine, and sat in awe as he watched his idols play. During this time, Reed Williams came to the sidelines to talk to Kevin, take pictures, and welcome Kevin to the practice.

At the end of the grueling practice, although the exhaustion was evident on the faces of the players, one by one they filed off the field, and instead of heading to the much anticipated showers and rest of the locker-room, they crowded around Kevin, welcoming him into their fold. I was afraid that Kevin would literally pass out. The pure innocence and ecstasy of his face is something that I will never forget. The players treated him as if he were a member of the team. Each one let Kevin hug them, signed autographs, laughed with him, and made the day so amazingly special, that it brought tears to many eyes.

Patiently waiting at the back of the pack, was Patrick White. When Kevin met our humble quarterback, he screamed and fell to the Astroturf. I thought he had passed out, but he was mimicking the motions of a worshiping an idol. Though slightly taken off guard, Pat handled it all in stride. He treated Kevin as if he were an old friend. He patiently chatted with one of Kevin’s friends via cell phone, he let Kevin hug him again and again, and spent over half an hour talking with all of us. He made Kevin’s dreams come true. The most touching moment of the afternoon was when once again, Kevin got to his knees to do the “We’re not worthy”, and Pat White returned the gesture and said “No, Kevin, you are my hero”.

Bill Stewart also spent several minutes of his precious time with Kevin and his family. When I told him how impressed I was with the team’s willingness to make Kevin’s day so special he replied, “I am not raising young athletes, I am raising young men”. Truly this team is full of men who possess not just great athletic ability, but hearts and moral fiber that commands recognition.

From the depth of my heart, I would like to thank Mike Kerin, Nate Sowers, Reed Williams, Pat White, Bill Stewart, and all of the WVU football team who made this young man’s dream come true. They have no idea how giving of a little of their time made a world of difference to Kevin. I would also like for all of West Virginia to know what an amazing group of young men we have representing our state, and what a classy gentleman we have leading them.

PS. I have sent this to the Dominion Post, WV Gazette, The Journal, Times WV, I want to get the word out what great men we have playing for us. Please spread the story and the word. I have been told that this letter will also be printed in the upcoming Blue and Gold News.

Harold E “Phil” Phillips, Jr, PM
Aurora 43, Newburg, WV