Community helping Cedaredge players deal with tragedy
When Trent Walker learned Sunday afternoon that two Cedaredge football teammates and another classmate had been flown to a Denver hospital after suffering from an accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning, the next step was easy.
It had been ingrained in the senior quarterback’s being by living in the close-knit community of Cedaredge and as a leader on the football team.
Walker was going to drive to Denver to be with Reid Gates, Aaron Henrie and Tyler Cooper.
“We’re a Bruin family,” Walker said. “We knew we had to be over there.”
Walker found out from his father, Cedaredge Fire Chief Kevin Walker, the trio had been flown to Denver less than an hour after the flight.
About an hour later, Walker got into a car with Bruin football teammates Tylor Beach and Kyle Ward to follow a line of Cedaredge parents, football players and community members on the four-and-a-half hour drive to Denver.
“We didn’t really know a whole lot about what was going on while we were traveling,” Walker said. “I mean, it helped we were together, but we just wanted to travel and be there with our teammates.”
Walker, Beach and Ward, along with teammate Beau Hebert, served as a leadership group for Cedaredge High School and the Bruin football team while coach Brandon Milholland made the measured decision to stay behind.
“I called all their parents and asked them what they needed me to do,” Milholland said. “They told me I needed to stay here and be with these men.”
Milholland also said his players leaving to be with the hospitalized teens wasn’t surprising.
“These guys have each others’ backs,” Milholland said. “They’re there for each other, and that’s really special to me.”
The close-knit nature of the Bruin football program was tested when it was announced Gates, a star running back and defensive back on the team, died Monday night.
Given the great personal loss the Cedaredge community felt, Walker said having his teammates and friends around him helped, especially after he rode back to Cedaredge with his father Tuesday morning, away from the initial shock of Gates’ death.
“I mean, I’m so glad I had my friends and teammates around me when I found out,” Walker said. “Even the few moments I was by myself, it was absolutely horrible. Having these people around me has helped more than anything. We stayed as a family together, came to school together, and having people around helps.
“My dad, being the fire chief, I guess he just knows stuff. He told me if I had any questions, he’d answer them, but if I didn’t want to talk about anything, he wasn’t going to ask. It was good to have that.”
Walker said the collective healing process over Gates’ death has begun for the town, and students from Cedaredge High School have taken to social media platforms to pray, support and remember.
Gates’ Facebook page was flooded with prayers, well-wishes for his family and anecdotes from students and the community.
Former Cedaredge quarterback and defensive back Dante Markley, who played with Gates during Cedaredge’s 1A Football State Championship win in 2012, updated his Facebook photos in remembrance of Gates.
Walker posted a photo on Instragram of Gates making a leaping catch with a caption saying: “I can tell you this ... If one ever made a mistake, he is the one who would run over and catch you.”
Walker also said some of his classmates that stayed in Denver on Tuesday night had eaten pizza with Cooper and said he is “doing well.”
As for Henrie, Walker said the entire Cedaredge community is behind him.
“We all just want him to keep fighting,” Walker said. “We’re all praying for it, and we know he has the strongest guardian angel watching over him.”