Two local schools are using their football matchups this week to raise money for 14-year-old Thys Oldenburg, who remains in a medically induced coma in the Duke Hospital Pediatric Care Unit.
Oldenburg was hospitalized after a hard tackle during a junior varsity game last week against Durham’s Hillside High School.
Doctors performed three emergency surgeries in the first 24 hours to reduce swelling and bleeding on his brain. His aunt Carolina Oldenburg said a CT scan Monday showed he didn’t have any more swelling or hemorrhaging. Another aunt, Cheri Bowers, visited Oldenburg and his parents Friday at the hospital.
“He’s holding tough,” Bowers said. “He’s obviously still in critical condition and the prayers are needed more than ever.”
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Oldenburg’s fellow students and Panthers football teammates have rallied in support of the family, holding a vigil Sunday and selling rubber bracelets with his name and jersey number (22) at Thursday’s junior varsity game to raise money for his medical expenses.
Their opponents, the Northwood High School Chargers, sold towels imprinted with the number 22 and a pair of praying hands at the game. All 65 towels, donated by M2 Graphics in Pittsboro and selling for $5 each, sold out in 30 minutes, according to TV station WRAL.
M2 Graphics owner Robyn Allgood, whose son plays for Northwood, told WRAL she donated the towels because football is a family.
Their actions were “heartwarming,” Bowers said. The teams have ordered more bracelets and towels, she said, and will be selling them at the homecoming game between the varsity teams Friday night at Orange High School.
Carillon Assisted Living of Hillsborough will hold another fundraiser for the family on Saturday, Oct. 21. The spaghetti lunch will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at 1911 Orange Grove Road. Plates are $7 and available for dine-in or takeout. Orders can be phoned in at 919-732-9040.
Pamela Koenig, resident care director at Carillon, said deciding to help the Oldenburgs is part of the center’s community outreach.
“We all see him and his mom around the community, and we just felt that we wanted to reach out and help,” she said. “We’re happy to help out.”
Duke pediatric nurses also stepped in to raise the family’s spirits this week, Bowers said, after they found out Oldenburg’s girlfriend Kara had asked him to think of a creative way to ask her to the dance, and he didn’t get the chance.
“The Duke pediatric nurses hung a banner that said will you be my homecoming queen,” Bowers said. “Everyone was waiting for a reply ... and she did a big poster yesterday that said, ‘You have intercepted my heart, and you scored a date to homecoming’.”
Donations to help the family also are being directed to a GoFundMe page that Caroline Oldenburg set up to keep well-wishers updated on Oldenburg’s progress and to help pay her nephew’s medical bills. North Carolina public high schools also are required to enroll student-athletes in the Student-Athlete Catastrophic Accident Insurance Program, which provides coverage from $25,000 up to $5 million.
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $20,000 of its $100,000 goal. Caroline Oldenburg has said the donations will be deposited into a fund for “the next kid who this happens to,” if her nephew “wakes up out of this coma and is fine.”
How to help
The Orange High and Northwood High football teams will sell bracelets and towels imprinted with Thys Oldenburg’s jersey number at Friday night’s homecoming game at Orange High School.
Carillon Assisted Living of Hillsborough will hold a Spaghetti Lunch fundraiser from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at 1911 Orange Grove Road. Plates are $7 and available for dine in or takeout. Orders can be phoned in at 919-732-9040.
Donations also can be made to a GoFundMe page set up by Oldenburg’s family.