Sports community “overwhelming” family with support for injured player

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Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 9:17 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) — There is an old adage that says “it takes a village” to raise a child.

The support for severely injured Roosevelt High School soccer player Dawson Aberson and his family has been “Dawson Strong,” from his village of teammates, coaches, and parents.

But “#DawsonStrong” has gone well beyond the village in the six days since Dawson suffered a concussion, multiple fractures around his eye, and a broken cheekbone from a head-to-face collision with an opposing player on Thursday.

“The biggest takeaway from this is, even in a city of this size, I’ve learned how small it can become when people are willing of their time and talent,” said Dawson’s mother Kelli Aberson on Wednesday. “We feel the love.”

Dawson will have reconstructive facial surgery on Monday, and may need more medical work after that. There a lot of ways for people to reach out and donate to his family’s medical expenses, and they already have.

The Abersons have received “in the hundreds” of text and facebook messages from all over the city and state. In fact, Pierre’s Riggs High School will put on a fundraiser and its homecoming football game, with proceeds going to the Aberson family, on Friday.

On Sunday, catalyzed by a meeting called by first-year Roosevelt soccer coach Victor Naranjo, a group of Roosevelt soccer parents have arranged a fundraising event for Dawson’s family at Shenanigans sports bar on Sunday, Oct. 1, from Noon to 4 p.m., with a $20 all-you-can-eat taco bar, a silent auction, and all profits going to the Aberson family.

“We’ve heard from a lot of people,” said Shenanigan’s owner Don Rose about the Oct. 1 fundraiser. “There will be a lot of donations.”

Rose has owned Shenanigan’s for 38 years and moved the bar’s location to 26th and Tea Ellis Rd. — then on the city’s western edge — in 2014. He said that while Sioux Falls clearly has its prep rivalries and pockets around the city’s high schools — Roosevelt and Jefferson out west, Washington and Lincoln to the east, and O’Gorman near the center — everyone comes together in situations like this to help.

“It seems like a community,” Rose said of the city. “People come out to support things like this.”

Kim Tesch is an RHS soccer parent who is organizing that party, and also took charge of the black “#DawsonStrong” bracelets that are now selling.

A couple of parents — Cassie and Jacob Marley II — stayed up until 2:45 a.m. to design and order T-shirts with the words “We Stand with You” surrounding the silhouette of soccer players surrounding a goalkeeper at a net on the front, and Dawson’s name and his number one on the back.

“It’s been amazing,” Tesch said with tears in her eyes on Wednesday. “We’re like a family and everybody’s coming from every angle to join in and do whatever they can to spread the word.”

Dawson’s tragedy hit home with Kim — the mother of Dawson’s teammate Jensen, who suffered a painful knee injury last year.

“That kind of brought back a flood of emotions when I saw him go down and it just breaks your heart,” Tesch said.

The entire Roosevelt team struggled last season, as it failed to win a game.

Naranjo — a Spain native who moved to the United States to become a kindergarten teach and had volunteered in local Sioux Falls youth soccer and for a season at Jefferson High — was hired at Roosevelt.

“Victor’s amazing,” Kelli Aberson said. “First, when a new coach comes in, you’re always a little unsure as to how things will go. But, I tell you, from the first game to team dinners — we hosted one a few weeks back — He loves these be loves these boys. He was there (at the Aberson house, talking to Dawson) Sunday night before he went to the meeting with the team. He truly cares about these guys.”

This year’s Roughriders were winless through eight games coming into Tuesday night’s match at Washington. Dawson left his house for the first time since Thursday’s accident (aside from doctors’ visits) to watch his team, along with his parents.

And here’s the part of the story Hollywood writers would think is too corny if it wasn’t real — the Roughriders notched their first win in two years.

After the game, Dawson celebrated with his teammates, who then took off their uniforms and put on the T-shirts bearing his name. They chanted his name over and over — “Dawson, Dawson!” — and posed for a picture.

“Hugs and high fives and fist bumps, and showed the T-shirts, and I think that was really good for his spirit,” Kelli said. “I don’t know if the parents were more excited or the kids. But we were all so happy for them. They proved to themselves they are a strong team.”

Strong, indeed. Dawson Strong.