As he had done hundreds of times before, Rowan Colebert walked up his steep, half-gravel, half-cobbled driveway towards Derrick Road.
Colebert, a Grade 2 student at George G. Blaisdell Elementary School and a dedicated athlete in Bradford’s youth sports community, had already taken to the road to pick up the newspaper, reach for the trash cans and check the mailbox. He had even crossed it, and on May 29, he intended to do it again.
After his younger brother’s fourth birthday, Rowan’s mother, Amber Colebert, tasked him with delivering presents to neighbors. With goody bags in hand, he trotted down the aisle, fully aware of the impending dangers.
Rowan came to the shoulder and, as he had been taught, first looked to the right. But before he turned his head again, a car stopping a few blocks away caught his eye. And, like any 8-year-old would, he presented himself with an internal challenge.
Could he beat the car on the road? He wanted to know and went away, never looking left.
Rowan sprinted across the first lane, heading north, when an oncoming vehicle, heading east, hit him.
It was a mother’s worst nightmare.
“I don’t want to tear it up, it’s still so overwhelming,” Amber Colebert said on Tuesday.
But instead, the accident sent Rowan Colebert’s family, friends, neighbors, coaches, teammates and community into a calm and coordinated outpouring of support in the moments that followed and throughout the two weeks that followed.
Rowan’s neighbors and four youth sports teams provided hundreds of dollars in toys, gifts, food and an immeasurable amount of time, energy and support that changed the way Eldred native Amber Colebert , and his family felt towards the community in which they live. .
“Being from a small town has always been what I’ve known,” said Amber Colebert. “I would have expected this kind of thing from Eldred, but I never would have expected the outpouring of support we received.”
Andria Nelson, the neighbor of the Coleberts’ next store, heard the accident first and came running. A licensed practical nurse at Bradford Manor, she held her leg until emergency medical technicians arrived and applied a splint.
Shane and Tarren Trout, neighbors who had pulled out of their driveway, ran down the street to help Rowan. Shane pulled the shirt off his back and applied it to Rowan’s bleeding head.
The extent of his injuries required Rowan to be taken by ambulance to a makeshift loading area in Forest Brook Park and transported via Mercy Flight to John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo.
Rowan suffered a comminuted fracture in his left leg which required surgery. A plate and six screws were placed to stabilize the bone, and a six-inch laceration on the top and front of his head required 13 staples. Later, Rowan, who had been bleeding for almost four hours, had a hemoglobin of 6.4 and required a blood transfusion.
But as soon as he emerged from surgery, Rowan’s love for athletics – instilled in him by Bradford Sports – kicked in. His first thought was that his baseball career was over.
“It was actually the first thing he said when he came over,” Amber Colebert said. “The first thing he said was ‘my baseball career is over’ which isn’t true now since he’s going to make a full recovery. I just didn’t realize how much that meant to me. him.
On the way to the hospital, Cpt. Daniel Colebert, Rowan’s father and member of the National Guard, posted on Facebook – a platform he tries to avoid at all costs – a status update for Rowan asking for thoughts and prayers.
The post captivated the community and drew immediate support from Rowan’s sports teams.
“My husband doesn’t use Facebook; he hates Facebook,” Amber Colebert said. “And when Rowan and I landed in Buffalo, I got all these messages, and I was like, ‘How do all these people already know what happened? And I went to Facebook and my husband had made a post.
“At first we weren’t asking for anything, just thoughts and prayers, and then people were constantly asking, ‘What can we do?'”
At first, in an attempt to stave off benevolent pressure from Facebook, Amber Colebert compiled an Amazon wishlist of items to entertain Rowan during his recovery. The community went beyond their wishes.
Rowan was an avid member of the sports community prior to the accident. He played football for the Bradford Raptors, baseball with Derrick City Green in Bradford Regional Little League, wrestling with Havers Hammers Wrestling Club and Bradford Youth Wrestling, and football through Bradford United.
Havers Hammers Wrestling Club manager Jessica Havers and her team set the tone.
With donations from wrestling families, Jessica and her husband, Mark Havers, the club’s owner, put together a basket of coloring books, crayons, toys, arts and crafts supplies, and video games for his Nintendo Switch game console.
“We sent a prayer link as an after link. We were just asking for prayers and encouraging people to message Amber,” Jessica Havers said. “And then we posted a message on our Facebook page after hearing Amber ask if any of the parents wanted to do a gift basket.”
The rest of Rowan’s sports teams followed suit.
After raising funds through Facebook and Facebook Messenger, Raptors football and Bradford youth wrestling coach Cam Snodgrass twice stopped by with gifts. Snodgrass delivered Rowan a toy Nerf gun, two Buffalo Bills autographed helmets, a set of Rowan’s favorite novels, coloring books and crayons.
“I reached out to Amber and asked her if there was anything you needed or anything that Rowan wants to kill time because he was wasting his summer,” Snodgrass said. “So she gave me a list of everything he does, and we packed a big care package for him.”
Rowan spent two nights in hospital before leaving on May 31. Upon returning home, he found the letters, gifts, and sentimental favors his baseball team had left behind.
Eric Haynoski, Rowan’s baseball coach, coordinated the creation of a banner that read “We Miss You #8” and placed it in the Coleberts’ front yard when they returned from the hospital.
During games without Rowan, Derrick City printed the number eight on their batting helmets and spray-painted a number eight in center field. Additionally, Bradford Regional Little League Chairman Jeremy Luna called to chat with Rowan and his family.
“The baseball team did some of the most touching things,” Amber Colebert said. “I think that was one of the most touching things.”
During an U10 football match on Thursday, Bradford United presented Rowan with gifts to show their support during his recovery process. Rowan received a ball signed by all the U10 players and a bag of Bradford United team shirts and hats.
“We just wanted to encourage him and let him and his family know that we support all of our football players when needed,” said Bradford United board chairman Patrick Conneely. “We want to make sure he knows, and his family knows, that we are here for him.”
Family and friends provided Rowan’s family with home-cooked meals, money to help with food and gas, and free haircuts to help hide the marks from the lacerations on his head.
The Derrick City Fire Department and Firefighter Mackenzie Swanson drove up with a fire truck and allowed Rowan and his brother to sit on it. And, Sports Cars of America’s Misery Bay area in Erie — one of Daniel and Rowan’s favorite places to race — raised more than $700 for in-house giveaways through Facebook.
“We just knew he was going to be in a cast for the whole summer, which is unfortunate, so we wanted to make sure at least a few of those days were fun,” the technical president of Misery Bay said. Sam. said Mehler. “So, we just put out an appeal to our members.”
More than two weeks after the accident, Amber Colebert insists it was a “real accident”.
“I mean, he just didn’t watch,” Amber Colebert said. “And so, because of that, I didn’t want people to say, ‘Are you going to sue the driver?
“My husband went to speak to (the driver) at the scene of the accident and contacted him a few times. I know he blames himself pretty badly.
Instead of dwelling on how May 29 could have turned out differently, Amber Colebert echoes the fact that Rowan is alive — the most important fact to her.
“Rowan is here and he’s safe and he’ll be perfectly fine and that’s what matters,” Amber Colebert said.
Doctors told Rowan last week he should plan to make a full recovery while on crutches. The news finally brought relief to Amber Colebert and gave her time to reflect.
With a moment of calm, Amber Colebert reflects on the actions of the community, and it almost brings her to tears. She concluded that her family lives in a much more caring and compassionate area than she could have imagined.
“I expected support from the baseball team just because that’s what he was actively engaged in,” Amber Colebert said. “But everything we got, it was very overwhelming in a good way. Rowan actually made a comment the other day to me and my husband.
“I knew you loved me,” Rowan said. “But I didn’t realize that everyone loved me.”