Community rallies around West Ottawa soccer player and family after devastating accident

OTTAWA COUNTY, MI – The community unites with a West Ottawa High football player who was seriously injured in a crash north of Holland.

Sam Smalldon, 16, a junior wide receiver, was seriously injured this week in a single-vehicle accident. His family and friends are hoping for a strong recovery.

“Sam is a great kid who always brings positivity to our team,” said West Ottawa High football coach Pat Collins.

He said the players on the 2-0 team have come together to support each other and their teammates. Sam is known for giving it his all and having a positive attitude, the coach said.

“Our players have definitely cornered each other. We realize how blessed we are to have the opportunity to play football and other things in life. The word ‘family’ really has a new meaning for us this week.”

West Ottawa Football tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sam and his family as he begins his road to recovery.”

The crash occurred around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 6, on Riley Street near 160th Avenue in Ottawa County’s Park Township. Smalldon was driving a Chevrolet Cruze westbound on Riley Street when he went off the road and crashed into several trees, sheriff’s deputies said.

Related: Young Dutchman seriously injured in accident

He was taken by ambulance to Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital and then transported by Aero Med helicopter to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

West Ottawa Superintendent Timothy Bearden said everyone is worried, but also hopeful.

The school community is “grouping around Sam and his family. It’s a big family,” he said.

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Kristine Jernigan, principal at West Ottawa High School, said many were devastated. The news spread quickly on social networks. It was a tough day at school the morning after the accident. But they have been heartened by reports shared by the teen’s family.

At first, they feared the worst, he said. Now, they hope for the best.

“I am so proud of the way our kids and community embraced him from afar,” Jernigan said.

He has known the family for years and said that Sam is loved by many at the school. He has been in contact with the teen’s mother.

“I think they are feeling the love of the community.”

Jernigan noted that a GoFundMe page came close to his $15,000 goal.

The page read: “Sam is such a kind and sweet boy. He is heavily involved in West Ottawa college football as a wide receiver. He loves hanging out with his friends and playing ball on the beach. He loves working for his older brother Drew at the Freedom Boat Club, and he spent most of the summer there! Sam is loved by many and he has the most amazing support system!”

He said the teen had sustained multiple injuries and underwent surgery to relieve pressure from skull fractures.

In an update, Jill Smalldon said: “There are angels among us.”

She said Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies determined her son was speeding when his vehicle went off the road. She said that she was not characteristic of him, but she knows that he is just like any other teenager.

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The car broke in two, he wrote. Only the driver’s seat was intact.

“However you look at it, it was a very poor choice on his part. Let this be a lesson to all the teenagers who think they are invincible. You are not.”

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