By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Kevin McInnis
As the Timpview High football team played another football game Friday night in the stadium that has become its second home – Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah – where the Thunderbirds have won so many state tournament games, the team sported a slight alteration to its traditional uniform. On the back of every Timpview helmet was hand-written the letter “B” in honor of a young lady who has touched thousands of hearts over the past four months.
Baylee Hoaldridge passed away Nov. 16 at University of Utah Hospital, not far from the championship game venue. The Timpview sophomore had been there since July 4 when an ATV accident left her burned over 65 percent of her body.
Baylee was a softball player in the T-Bird program and a lover of all things Timpview. Her family shared her story over the 4-1/2 months she fought for life through the “Be Brave Baylee” Facebook page. They shared her victories and her struggles and through it all, inspired thousands of people who prayed and hoped for this 15-year-old girls to receive a miracle.
In the end, after she and her family taught us all lessons in faith and fight, the time came for Baylee to continue her fight somewhere else and she passed on, leaving behind a legacy of perseverance in the face of, as it turned out, insurmountable odds. She gave all she had, and then some, in the hope of continuing her earthly journey and in doing so taught the rest of us what it means to endure in faith.
I didn’t know Baylee personally, but my daughter was also a softball player at Timpview who graduated just before Baylee arrived on campus. I heard of her story through my connections with Timpview softball and other friends who shared it on Facebook, and I was drawn to it.
I found myself cheering when she had successes and crying along with her family when there were setbacks. I honor them for having the courage to share her story with the rest of us. There were 27 surgeries along the way and enough setbacks to bring anyone to his knees.
On Friday night, the Timpview football team honored Baylee, remembering her for the fighter she so clearly was, as it entered the stadium with a sign in her honor and her first initial on the back of each helmet. Receiver Samson Nacua, who regularly writes his father’s name on one arm and the date his father passed away on the other for each game as a reminder for himself, played this game with his father’s name, Lionel, on one arm and Baylee’s name on the other.
Baylee’s family and friends will look forward to that future day when they can be reunited with her, and all of us have the privilege of the legacy she leaves us, the inspiration to know what it means to fight on even when the odds are stacked against us. The message of that slogan her family and friends adopted during her ordeal resonates still as it invites us to “Be Brave” in our struggles.