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By LARRY VAUGHT
Big Blue Nation Cares continues to find ways to make dreams come true for special Kentucky fans. Enjoy this story shared by a member of the Bardstown Bethlehem Class of 1983 about how BBN Cares is making it possible for one of their classmates to attend Saturday’s game against Belmont and providing not only seats, but hotel rooms and souvenirs.
Here is the story told to me by a Bethlehem Class of 1983 member about the kindness and generosity of Big Blue Nation Cares again. Enjoy.
“About 6 weeks ago, I received a message from a high school classmate of mine, Michelle Mattingly, from Bethlehem High School. She told me that Jimmy Crawford had been diagnosed with liver cancer. After news of his illness spread through the class, a special Mass at St Joseph Church in Bardstown was scheduled for December 10th. Facebook messages, texts, etc were used to spread the word for the Mass. Father Mark Spalding, himself a graduate of our class agreed to say the Mass. Three days before on December 7, one of the major organizers of the event, Molly Keene Smith, lost her husband to a sudden heart attack at their home. Some of us discussed postponing the service, but she insisted that we move forward with it out of concern for Jimmy and for those who may have already made special plans to be there that night.
We had around 75 to 80 people in our class, scattered all over the world. I believe the final count was 42 people who were able to take time out of their lives to gather to pray for Jimmy, his family and all those who were suffering at the time. Prior to the service, people parked their cars and came into the church, looking around, looking for familiar faces, looking for friends, some they hadn’t seen in 30 years. Little by little the church filled, not only with our class but with friends, family, and neighbors who know and love Jimmy and his family.
Its hard feeling to describe, you are looking around, seeing people you haven’t seen for so many years, you want to catch up with them, talk about old times, see what’s going on in their lives but then you remember the reason you are there that night, a reason compounded by the events of the past Saturday. During the service, Father Mark called Jimmy and his wife, Gayle, up before the congregation. I don’t think anybody knew that was going to happen. Standing before all of us, he anointed Jimmy with oil and we all prayed for him, his family and we prayed for Molly and her children as well. He then had them turn out to face all of us. Jimmy turned and had that same smile on his face he always has every time you see him, be it at Bethlehem Football games where he is the PA announcer, or running into him out shopping in Bardstown.
I can’t speak for everyone in the class but I would bet there weren’t too many dry eyes in the church at that moment. We left church that night and some of us went to a local restaurant to catch up and talk about things. I asked myself that night, what can we do to help bring a little joy to this family, facing the toughest of obstacles, something that maybe can bring some relief if just for a brief period of time from a nightmare.
I knew about the Big Blue Nation Cares and what they had done in the past so I was able to contact them. In a short time, they had found tickets to the Belmont game. I spoke with Jimmy to make sure he was ok physically to make the trip. He said he was, he said he would get extra rest before Saturday so I told them that he was good to go.
Stop and think for a minute, if you were faced with such a situation, could you act with the grace and dignity shown by Jimmy and his family? Would you be as courageous as Molly Keene Smith? Would you believe for a second that people are out there, people you don’t even know, who are ready at a moments’ notice to provide you with an opportunity to watch your team, with your family in Rupp Arena? None of us know how we will react when put in that situation but I know that on December 10th, I saw a man who showed all of us that he intended to face his head on. It’s all he knows.
Mr. Vaught, I don’t know what you want to do with this story or if it can even be written but if you could focus it on the inspiration that we all felt that night, from Jimmy and Molly and the unbelievable acts of kindness extended by BBNC, then I think the message would be one of no matter where you are in life, whether you think nobody cares or you are alone in the world, take a look at this group, a group I am proud to be associated with and see if you too can be inspired.”
Consider me inspired by Jimmy, Molly and Big Blue Nation Cares and my guess is that all UK fans are as well.
Vaught’s note: Reese Kemp (@ReeseKemp2) is a freshman at West Jessamine High School in Nicholasville who has cystic fibrosis and diabetes. His father also passed away when he was only 5 years old and the family was living in Nebraska at the time. But he’s a remarkable young man that has become a friend of such UK basketball players as John Wall, Nerlens Noel, Eric Bledsoe, Terrence Jones and others. He has helped feed families at Thanksgiving, helped kids receive toys at Christmas and given Valentines to the needy. Now he’s also been to a basketball game this season thanks to Big Blue Nation Cares. He had lower arena seats for Wednesday’s win over Mississippi State. Enjoy what he thought of the game.
By REESE KEMP
Wow!!! That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about last night’s UK basketball game! It was amazing! The atmosphere there was something I’ve never seen before and the fact Andrew Wiggins was there was a huge bonus!!
I had a great time. The seats were amazing, perfect seats actually. My friend, Trey, And I loved them!! Also to see the student section right in front of me was something special
It’s great to see how much our university cares and I love UK basketball! To watch the fans cheer for Brian Long when he went in was awesome because that is my dream to be a walk-on at UK!
Just want to give a big thanks to everyone who helped give me the tickets and hopefully I go to the Florida (game) to support UK!
By LARRY VAUGHT
When the tornado devastated West Liberty, Kentucky coach John Calipari went there to help with a fundraising telethon that came about partially because of a plea UK fan Rose Lykins made on Kentucky Sports Radio.
On Saturday, Lykins and her husband were in Rupp Arena to watch UK play Texas A&M thanks to Big Blue Nation Cares, a group that provides UK football and basketball game tickets for deserving fans. Lykins and her husband got front row seats and a hotel room from BBN Cares.
“I can’t tell you how much my husband and I enjoyed the game. It’s a shame Kentucky didn’t win, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Lykins said. “I was able to get (former UK coach) Joe B. Hall’s autograph, which was more than I ever hoped for.”
I was able to spend a few minutes with Lykins before the game. Enjoy her comments on the video.
(photos by Clay Jackson, Victoria Graff, Angie Goodwin and Gary Moyers. All rights reserved, property of vaughtsviews.com and Schurz Communications, Inc.)
By LARRY VAUGHT
Fans at Monday’s Kentucky-Transylvania game got to give a “Thumbs Up For Lane” when George Goodwin, the father of Lane Goodwin, was introduced and brought to midcourt. Lane Goodwin fought a courageous three-year battle with cancer before dying last month after he captured the hearts of many.
Big Blue Nation Cares made it possible for George Goodwin to be an honorary assistant coach for the game and not only sit on the bench with UK coach John Calipari, but also spend most of the day with him. Goodwin’s wife, Angie, and son, Landon, also had front row seats at the game thanks to Big Blue Nation Cares.
Enjoy the photos, including the one where cheerleaders Dylan Smith and Stephannie Johnson got other cheerleaders together to pose for a picture with Angie and Landon.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s exhibition game against Transylvania Monday is special because it gives the hometown Division III team a chance to play in Rupp Arena, gain national exposure and add money to its basketball budget.
However, this event should be even more special this year.
An attendee at the John Calipari Fantasy Camp who submitted the top bid to be an assistant coach at a UK game this year has worked through Big Blue Nation Cares — an organization that provides UK basketball and football tickets to special fans — to give his spot to the family of Lane Goodwin.
Goodwin is the 13-year-old Kentucky boy from Beech Grove who drew more than 300,000 fans to his Facebook page following his battle with cancer. He died last month after nearly three years of battling the illness. The “Thumbs Up for Lane” campaign inspired many and FOX 56 news anchor Jennifer Palumbo even had her picture taken with John Calipari’s team giving the “thumbs up” to Lane. He was also a big St. Louis Cardinals fan and the team remembered him during its National League playoff run.
His family released this statement thanking everyone for their support and involvement: “We would like to thank the community for the incredible display of human kindness over the past two and a half years. Our sweet Lane had a beautiful smile. He was full of energy and loved sharks, fishing, soccer, adventure and his brother, Landen. Lane had an incredible Christian faith, and we are able to find peace in the extraordinary life he lived in his short few years.”
While there has been no official word about anything special Monday, don’t be surprised to see this happen. No one has reached out to UK fans more than Calipari and this is something Kentucky fans — and players — would embrace. It would also help raise awareness about childhood cancer. Apparently Lane’s father will be on the bench and his mother and brother will be sitting in the front row at Rupp several seats down from former UK coach Joe B Hall.
Certainly it would be an emotional night for Goodwin’s family, but obviously he was a special young man and somehow you have to think he would enjoy looking down from heaven and watching his family enjoy this night thanks once again to a friend of Big Blue Nation Cares who generously gave up his spot on the bench with Calipari to someone who will appreciate it even more. The donor says Dick Vitale’s speech at the fantasy camp helped inspire him to reach out to the Goodwin family. He hopes Vitale understands the impact his speech that day made not only on him but how moved/inspired many were by the time he spent at the camp.
* * *
The front row seats used by Big Blue Nation Cares each year are a result of a joint effort between BBNC members and former UK sports information director Russell Rice, a 2011 UK Hall of Fame Inductee.