The communities of Harper Creek and Marshall came together Friday night for much more than a basketball game.
With tragedies throughout the area during the past week, Harper Creek officials asked for a moment of silence ‘to remember three individuals that need our thoughts and prayers.’
Abigail Kopf, a 14-year-old Harper Creek Middle School student, who is one of the survivors from the recent mass shooting that occurred in Kalamazoo last weekend. Kopf is currently at Bronson Hospital and remains in critical condition.
Kari Searles Jolink, 33, a Marshall High graduate and former basketball player, passed away on Wednesday after a long fight with cancer. Jolink had returned to her alma mater as a coach and teacher.
And the Harper Creek community was also saddened when a first-grader from the school system Harlyn Radley, 6, tragically passed away on Wednesday after a car accident.
Marshall girls basketball coach Sal Konkle said it has been an emotional week for everyone involved.
“It was very kind of Harper Creek to have a moment of silence for Kari and for the other people involved in the tragedies of this week,” Konkle said. “It’s really good for the communities to come together in this way. This was more than basketball out there tonight, we are all learning life lessons. And I think it’s easier to have to go through these life lessons together as a team and as communities.”
A scheduled event for Friday was also about more than basketball. Marshall and Harper Creek had asked each of its communities to donate water throughout this week to help with the Flint water crisis. In that effort, there were 900 gallons of water donated.
To remember Jolink, the Marshall student section also wore purple and the Redhawk players wore purple socks in her honor. Jolink, a 2001 Marshall graduate and one of the top players in school history, was diagnosed with non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer last year. The Marshall girls basketball team had presented a $2,500 check to the American Cancer Society in early February at a ceremony Jolink was able to attend.
“After she passed away this week, looking back it was just so important we were able to do that and she was able to be there for that,” Konkle said. “Tonight, we wanted to play for her, we wanted to win for her and we wanted to honor her. This has just been a hard thing to deal with, all of the tragedies we are talking about in these communities, it weighed on us tonight, it weighed on me.”
The thoughts of others went beyond the players and the coaches as well. Referees for Friday’s game, Rob King and Todd Gooding used pink whistles to honor Jolink’s fight with cancer.
“I officiated football with her husband,” Gooding said of Kari’s husband Joel. “This has been a very difficult week for the whole area. Ironically, this game was our assignment this week and this was just a small way for us to honor all the people involved.”‘
Bill Broderick can be reached at bbroderi@battlecreekenquirer,com or 269-966-062. Follow him on Twitter:@billbroderick