ATLANTIC – Hundreds of Atlantic residents, students and friends of Steele McLaren gathered Tuesday night for an emotional community vigil for the Atlantic teen, who was seriously injured in an accident over the weekend.
None more so than emotional words from Steele’s older brother, Chase.
In comments where he often choked back tears, Chase recalled the last conversation they had – and it was about football.
“He was talking about how cool it would be to play in the (UNI-)Dome with the boys,” he said. “Steele isn’t always the biggest or strongest, but he always leaves it all out there and that’s what he’d want you boys to do on Friday ... leave it all out there and the results will take care of itself.”
Hundreds of Atlantic residents turned out Tuesday night for a community rally for Steele, the Atlantic teenager who was seriously injured in an accident Sunday afternoon near Anita, in rural Cass County.
He remains hospitalized at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb.
The rally was organized by Mallory Kirchhoff, and the drone that captured the image of the #32 on the Trojan Bowl field was operated by Jay Robinson.
Steele’s football jersey number, 32, was the basis of attendees forming a hashtag and the number in honor of their friend and teammate at the end of the event.
His father, Dustin McLaren, attended the vigil and, in remarks, gave thanks and sincere gratitude for the support from the community, nearby states and elsewhere.
“I just talked to Jess and he’s still stable. That’s the only news that’s good news. Yippi-ki-yay!” said Dustin, at times his voice seeming to tremble with emotion. “We’ve felt more love in the last two days than I thought was anywhere near possible. Remember that when you’re done with us and hopefully Steele keeps coming through and we can move on to the next.”
Dustin McLaren also thanked his friends that were with him and got him through, noting they will need help and support, and the emergency responders who helped out at the scene.
“I wasn’t sure how this would go ... but I’m feeling good right now.”
Steele’s stepbrother, Gratt Reed, also commented, giving thanks for the support shown for Steele.
Chase also urged attendees to remember Steele’s friends who were with him when the accident happened. The friends gave him “the help he needed and we thank them for that,” he said.
“One thing that we all know is that Steele is a fighter with thousands of people in his corner,” said Chase.
Julie Williamson, youth minister at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Atlantic, where the McLarens are members, addressed the situation, noting, “We are not always in control and events can happen that cause us deep pain. But we come here to ask God to bring a level of comfort and hope to everyone who knows Steele.
“We know he is a fighter and we pray that He continues to guide doctors and medical personnel who are helping to restore Steele’s health so he can return to us in body, mind and spirit,” she said.
A donation box was available, with proceeds going into an account for the family at Rolling Hills Bank and Trust. Several other fundraisers are ongoing.