A time for support: Community rallies behind Austin teen

Published 4:21 pm Monday, August 7, 2023

While the clock keeps ticking and the calendar marches on, time has been frozen for one Austin family that is dealing with a heartbreaking ordeal – and that family keeps getting bigger every day as community members have rushed to the aid of Wyatt Hamlin.

Hamlin, an Austin High School student, was injured in a crash on July 30 after the vehicle he was driving was struck by a vehicle driven by Jeffer Lorenzo, who has been arrested and charged with six felony, gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor counts including criminal vehicular operation-bodily harm-under influence of alcohol. 

Hamlin suffered severe head and neck injuries from the crash and was airlifted to Mayo Clinic. As of Monday, he was in stable condition, but still unresponsive.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s just a waiting game for him to wake up,” said Wyatt’s mother Sheila White. 

Going through such an ordeal has been a nightmare for Hamlin’s family, but the bright spot has come from the Austin community as businesses and individuals have rushed to assist in fundraising for Wyatt’s medical bills.

White has been blown away by the community’s reaction.

“I am awed by this community. I never in a million years could envision this happening to my family, but I also could have never envisioned the community doing what they’re doing,” White said. “It’s overwhelming. I’ve never been overwhelmed, good and bad, all at the same time before. It’s hard to handle it all.”

T-shirts, vinyl stickers and bracelets have been made with Wyatt’s name on them to raise funds and the Austin Bruins and Austin Packers have each scheduled scrimmages to raise funds as well.

Across the community, residents have done their best as youths have held lemonade stands for Wyatt and businesses have put up donation buckets.

The Austin Packer boys hockey fundraiser for Wyatt, who is a member of the Packers squad, will include an Austin alumni team playing against the current Packers and it will be played in Riverside Arena at 6 p.m. on Sept. 16. The night will feature a silent auction, chuck a puck, food and items available for sale supporting Wyatt.

There is a hope that Wyatt will be awake for the game and it can be livestreamed with people sending him messages during the game.

Wyatt’s best friend and teammate Ghavin Schaefer has that date circled on his calendar.

“It’s going to mean a lot, with hopefully a lot of people being there and it being for Wyatt,” Schaefer said. “It’s going to probably mean the most of any game I’ve ever played.”

The AHS boys hockey team has a group chat that was normally dormant in the offseason, but it has been flooded with messages from the players rallying around each other and trying to lift each other up in recent days. It’s been a tough time for the team, and they’ve all leaned on each other.

“Wyatt’s my best friend,” Shaefer said. “He’s very dedicated and he’s really nice. He cares about a lot of people and the people that he cares about, he cares real deeply for. I try to think of the best and hope for a good recovery.”

Wyatt Hamlin. Photo provided

Schaefer’s mother, Danielle Finley, has a photo of Wyatt and Gahvin together where one is dressed up as a peanut butter sandwich and the other is dressed as a jelly sandwich. The photo has been circulating amongst Wyatt’s well wishers and Finley said it is definitive of how Wyatt fit in whenever he visited her home.

“Wyatt is always a joy to be around when he’s at my house. He’s a good solid, well rounded kid,” Finley said.

Finley has seen up close how the accident has rattled Wyatt’s family and the AHS hockey family. As time has gone on, everyone has gained a perspective on how serious the situation is.

“There are a lot of mixed emotions that you go through. I think it’s starting to hit people at different times,” Finley said. “I do believe a lot of the kids are struggling and there are good and bad days. It’s kind of an eye opener to everyone to not drink and drive.”

White and Wyatt’s father Brady Hamlin began the ordeal staying with their son in Mayo, but recently they’ve alternated days after a hectic week to attempt to maintain a sense of normality.

While there have been some extremely tough days for everyone close to Wyatt, one of the highlights for White was being able to cut her son’s hair in the hospital.

“He looked a little wild, so now he’s got kind of a crew cut,” she said.

Wyatt’s family never could have imagined their lives changing so fast, but it’s also shown them how much people in the community care. There have been hundreds of Facebook posts about Wyatt and many well wishing messages have reached White.

“There have been so many people stopping by the house. Kids that I’ve never even met from his school have stopped by,” White said. “The messaging has gotten so much that I can’t even respond to all of them and we’ve had so many donors on his GoFundMe page, even from young people. I appreciate it all and it’s amazing.”

Wyatt’s GoFundMe page, which has raised nearly $30,000, can be found here

There is a Facebook group dedicated to Wyatt entitled WyattStrong.