Community rallies around West Ottawa football player and his family after devastating crash

OTTAWA COUNTY, MI – The community is rallying around a West Ottawa High football player who was seriously injured in an accident in North Holland.

Sam Smalldon, 16, a junior wide receiver, was seriously injured this week in a single-vehicle crash. His family and friends are hoping for a strong recovery.

“Sam is a great guy who always brings positivity to our team,” said West Ottawa High football coach Pat Collins.

He said the players from the 2-0 team came together to support each other and their teammate. Sam is known for giving his all and having a positive attitude, the coach said.

“Our players have definitely grown closer to each other. We realize how blessed we are to have the opportunity to play football and other things in life. The word ‘family’ really has a new meaning for us this week.”

West Ottawa Football tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sam and his family as he begins his journey of recovery.”

The crash happened around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6 on Riley Street near 160th Avenue in Park Township, Ottawa County. Smalldon was driving a Chevrolet Cruze West on Riley Street when it veered off the road and crashed into several trees, sheriff’s deputies said.

Related: Dutch teenager seriously injured in crash

He was taken by ambulance to Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital and then flown by Aero Med helicopter to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Ottawa West Superintendent Timothy Bearden said everyone is worried, but they are also hopeful.

The school community is “rallying around Sam and his family. It’s a big family,” he said.

Kristine Jernigan, principal of West Ottawa High School, said many were devastated. The news spread quickly on social media. It was a hard day at school the day after the accident. But they were encouraged by information shared by the teenager’s family.

At first, they feared the worst, she said. Now they hope for the best.

“I’m really proud of how our kids and the community have kind of wrapped their arms around him from afar,” Jernigan said.

She has known the family for years and said Sam was loved by many at school. She has been in contact with the teenager’s mother.

“I think they feel the love of the community.”

Jernigan noted that a GoFundMe page was nearing its goal of $15,000.

The page read, “Sam is such a nice, sweet kid. He is heavily involved in West Ottawa college football as a wide receiver. He loves spending time with his friends and playing ball at the beach. He loves working for his older brother Drew at the Freedom Boat Club, and he spent most of his summer there! Sam is loved by so many, and he has the most amazing support system!”

He said the teenager suffered multiple injuries and underwent surgery to relieve pressure from skull fractures.

In an update, Jill Smalldon said: “There are angels among us.”

She said Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies determined her son was driving at high speed when his vehicle veered off the road. She said it was unusual for him, but she knows he’s like any other teenager.

The car broke in two, she wrote. Only the driver’s seat was intact.

“Anyway, it was a really bad choice on his part. Let this be a lesson to all the teenagers who think you’re invincible. You’re not.”

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