A close call becomes a call to action

Billy Mote, Reporter

Tragedy became a unifying force as the school came together to support one Pioneer during his recovery. The U-Crew and supporters gathered together on Friday, February 24th to celebrate the recovery of sophomore basketball standout Kai Bates-Diop, who a few weeks earlier was rushed to Peoria hospital after a cardiac event during practice. Not only was this a celebration of life, but a day to bring awareness to the importance of portable AED’s in schools, and how one saved Bates-Diop’s life.  

“The support I got from the students the night of the game was incredible,” Bates-Diop said. “It meant a lot knowing everyone was there for me.”

“In that moment, everything that once mattered to us all went aside and everything went to Kai,” coach McDowell said. “I’ve never seen a group of kids rally together like that.”

On the day of the incident, the U-High training staff, along with the help of others around them, used the school’s portable AED to revive Bates-Diop. There are many schools that aren’t fortunate enough to have AEDs available. Athletic Director Wendy Smith and the Bates-Diop family decided to raise money for schools without this important portable device through the printing of shirts.

“As a staff and family, we found a way to make good come from this,” coach McDowell said. “Having these devices available can very well save a person’s life.”

Senior captain Keondre Schumacher said it was to see everyone in full support of his friend and teammate.

“It was special to see how Kai’s family used what happened to fundraise money for those schools who don’t have AEDs,” Schumacher said. “They could’ve used that money for anything, and the fact that they used it for others proves how special this family really is.”

On February 16th, Bates-Diop’s father drove him through the bus lane of the school only to see hundreds of U-High students gathered there waiting for him.

“I felt pretty overwhelmed with the support from all of the school,” Bates-Diop said. “It was great feeling all of the love from the team and everyone around them.”

McDowell said it was amazing to see the whole school rally together in support of a student. “I know it meant a lot to Kai and his family.”

As the car pulled into the school, Bates-Diop waved out the window smiling, showing everyone that he is staying positive through this process.

“You could tell how much support Kai had that day,” senior basketball player Nate Robinson said. “I know it made him happy.”