By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune
Tyler England opened his eyes Wednesday for the first time in a week-and-a-half, with his parents, Bob and Teri, at his side.
“He woke up and gave us several thumbs up and squeezed my hand,” Teri said, describing herself as “beyond happy.”
“He opened his eyes and responded to commands. Even I didn’t think we would see that happen so quickly,” she said.
England was in a near fatal crash north of Ralston on Sept. 19 while on his way home from the Field of Dreams softball tournament. The area athlete and American Legion baseball assistant coach rolled his truck and was ejected from the vehicle; he needed to be life-flighted to Billings with multiple injuries that included a broken arm, skull fractures, a brain bleed, two broken bones in his neck and back injuries.
England has made great strides from exterior wounds, and the severe swelling of his hands and feet is improving. He required the help of a ventilator until Sunday and is being fed through a tube. Doctors were very worried about swelling of his brain, draining fluid to help relieve the pressure. He still needs to be sedated due to pain, but has been getting stronger each time he wakes, Teri said.
“He actually strung about three sentences together yesterday,” Teri said Monday morning.
England remained in a coma until Wednesday night. While he was out, friends in the Powell community rushed to his aid. It started with a large donation from the proceeds of the Field of Dreams softball tournament. Now there’s a GoFundMe account, donations being accepted at Pinnacle Bank in Powell and two events scheduled to help raise money to help pay for hospital bills.
Friends of the family are organizing a chili cook-off and another softball tournament to help raise the needed funds. The Chili Cook-off and Tasting is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 23 at Homesteader Hall at the Park County Fairgrounds. The doors open at 10 a.m. and the tasting begins at 3 p.m. The contest will feature red, green and an open category “for those who put beans in their chili,” said Kelly Laughlin, event organizer.
Entry in the contest is $30 for one event and $50 for two. Admission is $10 for an adult, $5 for children 10 and under or $25 per family. There will be a silent auction and organizers are looking for donations from area businesses for the auction. There will also be a dessert auction, beer garden, live music and games.
The deadline for entry forms is Wednesday, Oct. 20.
Meanwhile, Joe Cates is organizing the benefit softball tournament on Oct. 30. Seven teams have already signed up and the hope is to get several more to play a two-pitch tournament.
“We have several other teams that have contacted us,” Cates said.
The two baseball players met after England returned to Powell after playing professional baseball for the independent Pecos League team, the California City Whiptails. Cates said England’s knowledge and experience of baseball has been invaluable for American Legion players in Powell.
“Tyler does a good job of explaining things and he’s great with the kids,” Cates said.
England is known around town for his athleticism and community service. Just prior to his accident, he played a major role on the Misfits softball team at the Field of Dream tournament, hitting a home run in his final trip to the plate. The Misfits finished second in the competition.
“Tyler has been great for this community,” Cates said. “Knowing it’s for him should make for a great turnout.”
Cates said those wishing to be a part of the tournament but unable to play can buy specially made T-shirts and hats at the event. The group is also looking for donations for a silent auction.
“All the positive vibes are working miracles,” Teri said. “We’re so thankful for the prayers. Keep it up, they’re working.”
Tyler continues to improve. Though he has a long way to go, he’s communicating pretty well now, Teri said.
“You can tell he’s really frustrated because he can’t get his body and mind to do what he wants,” she said. “They’re having to sedate him so he can rest, but every time he wakes up he has more control.”
There is a Facebook page dedicated to England called “Rubbing Dirt On It — Tyler England.” The GoFundMe accont can be accessed at gofund.me/315353d2. Well over half the goal of $30,000 has been reached, with more than $19,600 donated as of Monday morning. Those wishing to make an in-person donation can do so at Pinnacle Bank. Jean Kalberer is managing the account.
Wendi Robirds is making shirts and hats for those wishing to show their support in style and Kelly Laughlin is making stickers and managing promotions for the cook-off. Her husband, George, is taking care of the concessions at the softball tournament.
“Everybody loves his cooking,” Kelly explained.
George is also planning to enter his prize-winning recipe in the chili cook-off, she said. If you have questions or need an entry form for the chili event, contact Jessica Laughlin at 307-202-0965 or firstname.lastname@example.org.