Complete strangers rally behind local family after tragic crash

Courtesy: Miranda Young Photography | Carson Ukele, Carmen Ukele, Marlee Ukele, Tanner Ukele
(Photo courtesy KSNT News)

SABETHA, Kan. (KSNT) — While the Sabetha community is mourning the Ukele family, another community is supporting them.

It’s been four days since the Ukele brothers created a memory of winning the 3A football state championship, but it’s also been four days since another memory was created. This one the opposite of winning.

On the way home from earning the championship title, a head-on collision on Hwy 75 killed their mom, Carmen; sister, Marlee; and Uncle, Stephen. Their dad was left seriously injured.

Two weeks before that, when Sabetha beat Osage City, a more important message was shared than the victory.

“One of the boys that prayed and talked to our students and prayed and told the boys that football is much larger than life,” said Tony Heward, principal and athletic director of Osage City. “And really, it’s a way of preparing them for adversities of life.”

Heward said that message stuck with the Osage City players. But now, it’s about who the message came from, one of the Ukele boys is who lead the prayer.

“They brought back that feeling and then when this happened, it just struck a chord with them,” Heward said.

A family who has never met the Ukeles has created a fundraiser getting the whole city involved.

“We heard about this tragedy on Sunday and felt like something was pushing us to do something,” Kevin Swindale said.

Businesses in Osage City and the high school will be collecting donations this week.

“My wife put together a brochure or flyer for me to track around yesterday,” Swindale said. “And so I think 25 businesses I’ve hit so far.”

Swindale said what has hit him the most is that on the day that the Sabetha football team and the two Ukele brothers became Class 3A champions, the best day of their lives, soon became the worst.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take many more communities to mourn for a terrible tragedy like this,” Swindale said. “I think that parents need to show their children and grandchildren how to have empathy and understanding towards people.”

Below is a list of businesses participating:

  • Buzzards
  • Marilyn’s
  • Casey’s
  • Burns Burn Walsh Walsh (Lyndon & Osage)
  • Edward Jones
  • Schroeder Pharmacy
  • State Farm
  • Potter’s Barber
  • John’s Barber
  • BP
  • Haskin’s
  • Napa
  • Jerry’s
  • Auburn Pharmacy
  • Salt Creek
  • all local banks

A table will also be set up at Friday’s basketball game in Osage City.

Additionally, Marysville will have a free-will donation set up for the Ukele family. They will also donate proceeds from sales of a special t-shirt available at Idntiteez. The shirts cost $10. They will also hold a moment of silence before the boys’ game.