Friends, Fans Pitch In To Help Horn Sports Star

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Nothing is more admirable in young people than the willingness to pitch in and help friends in need.

That's exactly what's happening these days at Payson High School and in our community.

Led by the Longhorn Football Club, PHS students are working to help senior Hunter Walden and his family defray some of the excessive costs incurred by his recent surgery to repair a torn ACL ligament in his knee.

Because of a quirk in a changing of insurance polices, Hunter's injury occurred during a "window" in which he had no hospitalization benefits.

That means he and his family must shoulder the burden of all the costs of the operation.

The repairs to his knee were done late last week and Hunter's on the road to recovery although he still walks with a crutch.

Learning of his financial dilemma, students and organizations on the campus decided to come to his aid.

According to school officials, the football club is the foundation of the movement, but the student council -- of which Hunter is president -- and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are also playing roles. Other groups are also becoming involved.

A complete list of the planned benefits -- dinners, car washes, etc. -- has not been finalized but the movement is gaining momentum each day.

For those who don't know the young man, Hunter was the starting quarterback on the state champion football team and set a new home-run record on the Horn baseball team last summer. He was featured in the "Faces in the Crowd" section of the Aug. 31, 1998 issue of Sports Illustrated.

His injury occurred in a Jan. 23 basketball game when he tried to make a quick jump stop and his knee gave way.

School officials say they do not believe students are anxious to help Hunter just because he's a sports star. Rather, they say, the movement means the students are choosing to become more involved in the welfare of a fellow student. One administrator said the drive to assist Hunter could be the first of really good things that can happen on a school campus.

Anyone who would like to pitch in and help defray the mounting medical bills Hunter and his family are facing, may send donations to the Payson High School Football Club at P.O. Box 919, Payson, Ariz. 85547.

Down the road
Hunter says doctors and therapists have told him he might be able to return to athletic action in six weeks. That means he would be available for the crucial stretch drive for the PHS baseball team.

After graduation in May, Hunter might accept a combination baseball and football scholarship to Eastern Arizona or possibly opt for a church mission.

He says he doesn't believe the knee injury will affect either ambition.

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