They were a happy family with trips to the beach, basketball games – even meeting Larry Bird.
But then tragedy struck.
Thirteen-year-old Kyler Fairchild got into a bicycle accident that nearly took his life. That’s because Kyler wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Kyler’s brain swelled so much that part of his skull had to be removed.
Happy to be alive, his journey toward recovery began.
“He’s a fighter,” Kyler’s father, John Fairchild said. “He’s tough. He’s tougher than me.”
“I was in the hospital for a month or two,” Kyler reflected. “It was hard. It was boring, too, because all I did was just sit in bed – get medicine all day.”
Now that Kyler is out of the hospital and nearly recovered, Friday night’s Evansville Otters game was all about him. He made a rock star entrance as he landed in the center of Evansville’s Bosse Field in a St. Vincent LifeFlight helicopter.
“It was scary lifting off, and it was scary going down,” Kyler said.
Upon arrival at the pitcher’s mound, Kyler shook off the nerves just in time to throw the opening pitch for the game.
Tonight’s game was about telling Kyler’s story, letting people know that helmets save lives.
“We take our heads for granted,” John Fairchild said. “I mean our brain, our brain functions everything in our body. And we have to protect it.”
To drive home that point, Mike Flake, one of Kyler’s teachers at North Junior High School, started a drive to give out helmets to kids across the Tri-State.
Saint Vincent of Evansville got involved in the effort, helping donate 500 helmets to hand out to kids at Friday’s game.
Meanwhile, there’s still a lot of work left to be done.
When asked if he thought helmets are cool, Kyler responded, “A little. It depends what kind of helmet. Like, the design of it.”
“If we can get a group of kids, a group of adults, it only takes one trend to start something and that’s what we’re hoping to do,” John Fairchild said.
Until then, the lessons of that terrible crash are helping make Tyler’s family stronger as they appreciate the time today that they may not have had.
“I’ve always been proud of him, John Fairchild said. “I mean he’s my son. I love him so much and I’m just very proud of him.”