ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – He’s been active in life and in his community, but an accident over the weekend put an Albuquerque soccer coach in the hospital with a spinal cord injury. Now the community is stepping up to help him in a big way.
Back in 2014, Coach Cameron Clarke told KRQE News 13, “I’m fortunate to be able to say I’ve been one of his coaches,” speaking about one of his soccer players.
Monday, his players told KRQE News 13 they’re the fortunate ones to have a head coach like him.
“He’s really encouraging and he’s really positive,” said Nick Burrup, a Cibola High School soccer player going into his junior year. “Clarke’s an awesome dude, and he’s a big role model to me.”
“He’s competitive, he loves playing with his students,” said Benji Rogers, a 17-year-old varsity soccer player going into his senior year at Cibola. “I really hope to see him back on the field.”
They’re all rooting for coach Clarke’s recovery after an accident Friday night has him holed up at the University of New Mexico Hospital.
“He dove into his pool and I guess just this time dove too deep,” said Michael Clarke, Cameron Clarke’s younger brother. “We’re assuming hit his head, he doesn’t remember that part.”
Michael said his older brother was in the family pool when he lost consciousness. When he came to, “He said ‘I can’t feel anything, we need to call 911.'”
Rushed to the hospital with a broken neck, Coach Clarke, a husband and father of three, is now fighting a spinal cord injury that’s left him struggling to move his arms and legs.
“He’s a P.E. coach, my father was a P.E. coach, my mom was a P.E. coach, we just grew up in a family loving sports,” Michael explained. “Seeing him in the hospital bed without the movement of his legs is one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen,” he added.
“He loves playing with us during practices, so that’s a little heartbreaking,” said Rogers.
But no one is giving up. The family has set up a You-Caring page to help raise funds to send Clarke and his family to Craig Hospital in Denver where they specialize in spinal cord injury rehabilitation.
“Teachers give a lot of their time uncompensated, and I think now he needs some support,” said Ray Rodriguez, Athletic Director at Cibola High.
Rodriguez said he visited Clarke Saturday, and he was in good spirits. “He was worried about school stuff and registration, and he’s also department chair for P.E. so was concerned with all that,” recalled Rodriguez.
So far the response to the family’s fundraising page has been overwhelming. In less than 24 hours, more than 270 people donated more than $26,000.
“We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support that we are getting with friends, family members, from all over,” an emotional Michael Clarke said.
“It’s been awesome. It’s really gonna go a long way to helping us out.”
Coach Clarke had just started a summer soccer camp with students on Thursday in preparation for the school year.
His players have a message for Coach Clarke.
“Just stay positive and you got this. We all believe in you,” said Burrup.
“We all love him, we hope that he recovers very soon,” Rogers added.
Coach Clarke’s family said it’s still unclear what part of recovery and rehab insurance will cover.
For more information or to donate to the family, click here.