In late August, just around the beginning of the school year, members of the Buffalo Grove girls volleyball team were at the house of sophomore Kiarra Akiyoshi for a season-opening pasta party.
After a few hours, four players remained: Akiyoshi, sophomore Kanella Kalyviaris and seniors Monica Browne and Teagen Hutchings. The conversation steered toward the team’s annual fundraising project.
A few weeks earlier, Buffalo Grove teacher Dave Fuglestad had been seriously injured when a motorcycle he was riding was hit by a car.
“We do a [fundraising] event every year,” Akiyoshi said. “We were thinking of what to do. A few of the players talked about what we could do to benefit Mr. Fuglestad. Everyone knew him and loved him as a teacher.”
On that day, Akiyoshi, Kalyviaris, Browne and Hutchings set a plan in motion to raise money for expenses related to Fuglestad’s recovery. They contacted their coach, Matt Priban, and set a date for an event on Oct. 7, when the Bison were to host Rolling Meadows.
“It was a great idea and they ran with it,” Priban said.
Akiyoshi’s mother ordered T-shirts. The team decided on a slogan — “Fight On For Fuges” — to be printed on the orange tie-dye shirts. Akiyoshi and senior setter Marie Georgoulis hatched an idea to get the lower-level teams involved.
“Each team had 10 posters to make,” Akiyoshi said. “They did it on their own time.”
With supplies ordered by Akiyoshi’s mother, the squads worked on the posters. As the event drew closer, the posters came alive. “One Goal, One BG” was written on one. Another declared, “BG Serves Up A Win For Mr. Fuglestad.” The hashtag #Davestrong was everywhere.
On the day of the event, Buffalo Grove’s gym was decorated with blue and orange balloons donated by Kalyviaris’ family.
“On every chair, on every bench, on every table,” Akiyoshi said. “Up and down the bleachers, taped to the wall. Balloons were floating around [everywhere].”
About an hour or so before the scheduled 6 p.m. start, Fuglestad arrived at the high school.
Fuglestad, who was paralyzed in the accident, returned to his Hoffman Estates home in September after a seven-week stay at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Buffalo Grove’s match on Oct. 7 was the first time the science teacher had been on campus since before the Aug. 2 accident. When he rolled his wheelchair inside the school, he was greeted by dozens of colleagues, many of whom hadn’t seen Fuglestad in his current state.
“We were there for him when he came in,” said Buffalo Grove science teacher Kevin Trow, a friend of Fuglestad’s. “It took him 30 minutes to get from the door to the gym. It was very overwhelming and emotional for him.”
Accompanied by his wife, Tricia, Fuglestad made his way to the gymnasium, sitting to the right of the scorer’s table near the Bison bench. Trow spoke to the large crowd, followed by Dave Fuglestad.
Player introductions were next. Akiyoshi came first. Her name called, she approached Dave Fuglestad. She clenched her hand, as did Dave Fuglestad, and they bumped fists. As they made contact, Akiyoshi’s eyes met those of the man she, her Bison teammates and parents had spent countless hours working to help.
“He looked happy, amazed at everything we did,” Akiyoshi said. “It was good to see his sprits lifted like that. I’d want to remember the look on his face forever.”