Commonwealth Journal

Local News

February 28, 2014

Basketball tourney to benefit City employee

Somerset — It’s a basketball tournament to end all basketball tournaments — in the City of Somerset, anyway. Tonight, Somerset firefighters, police officers and EMS employees will tip off for a good cause.

“Hoops for David,” slated for tonight at 6 p.m. at the Somerset High School Gym (a.k.a. the “Briar Patch”), is expected to be an out-and-out fight for bragging rights between the city’s three emergency agencies — Somerset Police Department, Somerset Fire Department, and Somerset-Pulaski County EMS.

This marks the second year for the charity game. Last year, SPD and SFD went at it for the coveted traveling City of Somerset Emergency Services trophy, which currently resides with SPD. Now, EMS has thrown its hat into the ring, and this Saturday will feature a tournament between the three emergency agencies. First, a game between SFD and EMS will be played, and the winner of that game will take on last year’s winner, SPD.

And it’s all for a good cause— one that’s close to many people’s hearts.

City of Somerset IT employee David Sayers has spent more than eight weeks in the hospital, much of that at the UK Medical Center, battling Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a serious, often fatal disease that is characterized by a sudden failure of the respiratory system.

Sayers is well-known in the city and in the county. He currently serves on the Science Hill School Board, and he is active in his church, First Baptist Church of Science Hill.

“He’s been missed,” said Science Hill Police Chief Robbie Gossett, who has visited Sayers at UK around once a week since he was hospitalized.

Sayers, who is in his 40s,  was hospitalized shortly after Christmas after he found himself unable to breathe.

“It’s not normal for a 40-year-old man to not be able to get up and get dressed,” said Deanna Sayers, David’s wife, about his scary health situation.

He was initially diagnosed with the flu, and then pneumonia, and from there, his health declined quickly. Sayers’ recovery was touch-and-go for a period, so much so that Sayers underwent the ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) procedure, which uses a machine to take over the work of the lungs and heart.

But now, he appears to be improving — even walking a few steps this week and eating some solid foods.

“He’s doing a lot better than what he was,” said Deanna. “He’s still critically ill and will still be that way for awhile.”

Deanna and David Sayers have a 10-year-old son — “He had his birthday while his daddy was in the hospital,” she said — and Deanna is pregnant with their second child. She’s due March 23.

And Deanna Sayers has been splitting her time between working during the day in Lexington and spending evenings with David. His family and friends have visited him frequently.

“His mom and dad and sister have been great about coming up and sitting with him,” said Deanna.

With David’s medical bills and the expected delivery of their second child around the corner, their friends and family were searching for a way to step forward and help out. That’s where the charity basketball game came in.

“It’s amazing, the outpouring of support for (the game),” said Sgt. Greg Martin, with SPD.

Martin and other organizers opted to change the event a bit last year, moving away from a game featuring SPD versus a local high school team to a city emergency services game. Last year, the event raised more than $4,000 to go toward city employee Dana Whitis and her family. Whitis’ daughter, Haylee, has Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, and the family was saving up to purchase a service dog that would alert the family when Haylee was nearing a diabetic crisis.

Martin said Whitis, who has since then purchased the dog for Haylee, was “so touched” by the support shown by the city emergency services during the 2013 charity game that she has taken on a major role in planning out this year’s “Hoops for David.”

 “It just worked out,” said Martin. “It’s another city employee we can help.”

The event has a Facebook page, which can be found by searching “Hoops for David,” and as of Friday afternoon, around 200 people had indicated they would attend Saturday’s game.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Gossett. “We’re there just to support David.”

Admission is $5 for the game, and kids get in free. The event will feature several give-aways and a silent auction, with prizes donated by local businesses.

“I am totally amazed at the outpouring of support from the community,” said Nancy Whitis, a paramedic with EMS, on the Facebook page. “We haven't had to ask for a single door prize or silent auction item, they were all donated on their own. We appreciate all of the people and businesses that have given their support.”

Prizes include a “Wildcat package” — one UK shirt, one UK hat, and two upper-level tickets to the UK-Alabama men’s basketball game on March 4, a free cut and style provided by Pampered Palm Hair Salon, a Mary Kay Vanilla Sugar Satin Hands set provided by Beauty with Anna, a 154-piece Craftsman Mechanics tool set, provided by Sears, and a membership to PHI Air Medical Helicopter Service, among others.

T-shirts are also being sold for $10 each.

All of the proceeds raised will go directly to David Sayers and his family to help with medical bills.

 

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