Game goes on for teen who lost home to twisterWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: Toledo Free Press will follow the Blank family of Millbury for the next year as they rebuild their lives after a June 5 tornado destroyed their Main Street home.
Casey Blank is finding solace through something the tornado couldn’t take from him.
Less than 48 hours after losing his Millbury home, the 15-year-old showed up to play baseball for Lake High School. The next day, he went to golf practice.
In the following weeks, the rising sophomore would discover that practicing and playing would give him a sense of normalcy.
“Sports help me get through things and I felt like that is where I should be,” Casey said June 29.
No one thought he would show up. Even his parents told him to take a little time off before heading back.
For the first baseball game, he borrowed a jersey and pants. His bat bag survived the storm, falling from a family vehicle that went flying through the yard.
“For his age, he is very accountable,” said head baseball coach Greg Wilker. “I told him, ‘You don’t have to be there.’ He said, ‘I want to be there.’”
Golf coach Terry Tansel said Casey continues to show resolve.
“It is good to see him out and excited,” Tansel said. “When he showed up after the tornado, that was the first time I ever coached him. I feel that through this process and the donations coming in, I am really getting to know him better. The best thing is we get three years of him.”
Since the storm, the PGA has set up donations of clothes and equipment for Casey, as well as Michael Kranz, who lost his house and father in the June 5 storm. Tansel said the outpouring of support has brought the team closer together.
Casey said the generosity has been amazing. It has helped him deal with losing his home and school, which he said “really sucks.”
One of the most touching gestures was from a friend who gave him an iPad for his birthday June 8, even though it was after his party.
The night of the tornado was his party. Friends came over for an evening of swimming and eating. Soon after the party ended, the family headed into the basement because of the tornado warning. Casey took his cell phone and his birthday gifts to safety. Not worried, he opened them as they waited.
“I thought we would come up and go back upstairs,” he said.
But when they did, the house was gone. They used Casey’s cell phone to call 911.
“I was in awe,” he said. “I didn’t know what had happened.”
His father, Ed, said he has come to realize that sports are helping his son deal with the loss. The family is living with a friend in Perrysburg Township, which Casey said is fun because the house is big and he can hang out with their children. Of all his possessions, he misses his Xbox the most.
“His healing process is being aided by his activities,” Ed said. “He is spending a lot of time with teammates and friends.”
Casey said the tornado will not dictate the upcoming school year. He will play junior varsity golf and then baseball in the spring. His junior varsity baseball team won the league title this year.
“It’s going to be as normal as usual,” he said.
Or as normal as it can be.