This has not been a typical week at Lane Tech.
The school at the corner of Addison and Western is one of the biggest in the state with more than 4,000 students. It’s hard for one person to make much of a ripple in that pool of humanity, but Drew Williams is a special kid.
Missy Smith had him as a student in her Contemporary American History class last school year, when the students staged a mock presidential election to coincide with the real thing.
Williams was picked to be his study group’s candidate for President. “He called himself ‘Drew-bama,'” said Smith, who wasn’t at all surprised by that development.
“He was the energy in the class,” she said. “He always has a smile on his face. He’s a very friendly, just happy-go-lucky, loving person.”
And an active one, too. A senior now, he’s been a mainstay of Lane’s football team as a 6-foot, 180-pound wing back and defensive back. He also played two years of lower-level baseball and would have been a starting outfielder for the varsity last spring had he not left the team to concentrate on football conditioning.
Last Friday, Williams was at Gately Stadium for Lane’s game with Dunbar. Early in the fourth quarter, he suffered a seizure on the sideline. After being treated at the scene, he was taken by ambulance to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he remains.
According to a late Tuesday post on caringbridge.com, Williams was in critical condition and in a coma after suffering a subdural hematoma on Friday. A post at gofundme.com, where donations are accepted to help cover the cost of Williams’ medical care, said he underwent emergency surgery after being admitted to the hospital.
The news has hit hard at Lane.
Smith, who usually goes to Lane’s football games, missed this one and didn’t learn about Williams’ condition till Sunday night. “When I heard about it, I was just in shock,” she said. “I just have this pit in my stomach. I want so badly to go see him but I’m trying to respect his family’s privacy.”
On Monday, school officials set aside a room, staffed with counselors and a school social worker, for students, teachers and staff — all those people whose lives Williams touched.
Someone brought in a big piece of paper for people to write messages of support. By the end of the day, Smith said, there was a piano in the room. One of the students sat down and started to play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
The anthem of the White Sox’s 2005 World Series run resonated in a different way, with a different crowd this time around.
“There were probably 70, 80 kids in room,” Smith said. “They had their arms over each others’ shoulders, they were singing this song.”
The message of hope and perseverance is spreading all over Lane’s campus.
“Coaches coach sports to have an opportunity to coach somebody like Drew,” Lane football coach Fred Proesel said. “Every day he went to practice, he enjoyed it. He made his teammates enjoy practice also.
“He is a dynamic personality [with] a devilish smile. Kids like to be around him.”
“What a great kid,” said Dean Stavrakas, who stepped down as Lane’s baseball coach after last season. “He was a gem. It’s really had an impact on the school.”
Indeed, according to the gofundme.com site, through Wednesday evening 146 people had donated $14,234. Those numbers should continue to grow, because it’s pretty clear no one will stop believing in Drew Williams’ big heart and fighting spirit.
For information on the Drew Williams Recovery Fund, go to: http://www.gofundme.com/4ootzc
For updates on Drew Williams, go to: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/drewwilliams