Ninety-one people stood on Lafayette High School’s field hockey field with one purpose: to support a critically injured graduate.
They came with signs, prayers and kind words on Sunday at sundown. They came for Jared Antle, 19, who graduated from Lafayette in 2017, according to Williamsburg-James City County School Division records.
“Jared’s taking a nap right now,” rally organizer Brandy RB Campbell said of Antle’s injuries. “He’ll get up and be ready to move in a little bit. The ‘Burg hadn’t done a lot, so it was really important for us to show Lafayette was completely behind him.”
While at Lafayette, Antle pitched for the baseball team, according to Virginia Gazette archives.
On Aug. 25, Antle was getting into a vehicle in the 400 block of West Market Street in Harrisonburg at about 11:57 p.m. when he was hit by a black Honda Pilot SUV, according to Harrisonburg Police Department spokesman Lt. Pete Ritchie.
He is a sophomore at James Madison University studying management. The university declined to confirm any other details, citing federal privacy laws, said JMU spokeman Bill Wyatt.
Now, in the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Antle faces a long road to recovery.
After he was hit, surgeons removed two pieces of his skull to allow his brain to swell without damage, according to Antle’s girlfriend Rachel Lia.
“I know that Jared would be so unbelievably moved by the support you’ve all shown,” Lia said at the rally. “His years at Lafayette were so fun for him, and he has so many incredible memories of here. Lafayette was important to Jared, and even more than that I think that Jared was important to Lafayette.”
Since the hit and run, Antle has received blood transfusions, suffered “neuro storms” — a complication from traumatic brain injury that affects the nervous system — and opened his eyes for the first time Sunday, according to an online journal his family has kept.
“Tonight has been really encouraging for our family,” one entry reads. “Jared made a few purposeful movements tonight. Our favorite moments were when he raised his right hand up during tooth brushing and when the doctor squeezed his shoulder. We all surrounded Jared in excitement. It was so encouraging to see these movements despite the fact that we were told his movements would likely become less frequent ...”
An online crowd-sourced fundraiser to pay his medical expenses has raised nearly $29,000 of a $50,000 goal.
For those who love him, such as Lia and his best friends John Barton, John Keane and Conrad Steck, the accident has cut deep.
“It’s been a tough week and a half for everybody who knew Jared,” Barton said.
The group looks forward to the day when their gregarious friend will once again make them smile.
Even after a year apart at separate colleges, “it was like we never left,” Keane said. “Just like old times. … Nothing’s ever going to change. He’s just so energetic and brings a positive attitude wherever he’s at, always laughing at whatever you say. He makes you feel good about yourself. He makes you feel a little funnier than you actually are, but just a great guy to have around.”
Keane, 19, has been looking back at canoe and hiking trips he took with Antle.
They’d hop in Antle’s late-1990s GMC Denali and drive to the mountains of North Carolina for a weekend outdoors, Keane said. That’s something he said he looks forward to doing again when Antle is healed.
That healing process could take quite some time, according to the family’s online journal.
“It’s been a bumpy road to say the least, but we’re staying strong for Jared,” Antle’s mother Cathy wrote in a journal entry. “We received some pretty sobering consultation over the past couple of days concerning Jared’s weeks/months ahead.”
The family asks for only one thing from Greater Williamsburg: thoughts and prayers.
“We covet your prayers for a complete recovery because we know that God is a God of miracles.”
How to help
To donate money toward Antle’s recovery, visit gofundme.com/support-jared.
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329 and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.