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Golf tournament fundraiser to be held for paralyzed football player

September 18, 2018

Nate Koplin played center on the offensive line for the Skyline High School football team before he was paralyzed when he dove into the Snake River in August.

A golf tournament is scheduled for Sept. 29 to raise funds for a Skyline High School senior who was left paralyzed after diving into the Snake River in late August.

Nate Koplin was ready for his senior year. As a starter on the football team, Skyline’s athletic director Gregg Baczuk said he showed immense promise. But his accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Koplin is now being treated at the University of Utah hospital, and his mother, Mindy Koplin, said his recovery has been slow-going.

According to Mindy, Nate is beginning to regain some nerve feeling and is now breathing on his own, but the road ahead is long.

“We’re just in a one-day-at-a-time kind of mode at the moment,” Mindy said.

Jason Hess, one of the owners of Journey’s End Golf Course in Shelley, said he heard about Nate from one of his employees, whose son also plays football for Skyline. Though Hess didn’t personally know Nate, he said he felt compelled to help because something similar happened to his family when he was young.

“The community rallied around and helped my parents out as much as they could,” Hess said. “And it’s just nice to know that people are thinking about you, even if you don’t know them.”

The four man best-ball tournament will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The cost of registration is $200 per team, which includes lunch. Regular golfing will take place from 1 p.m. until dark and will be $25 per person for a nine-hole game, which also includes lunch. All green fees will go toward Nate and his family. Hess said his store, Walkabout Junction, will be donating the food for the lunch.

Hess said he has been trying to recruit high school students and athletes to compete in the tournament to give them a chance to support “one of their own.”

“I think it’s good for people to see that we’re kind of all in this together out here,” Hess said. “We all play each other. We all have friends around. We all have people who need help, and if we can do that, that’s something we should do.”

Baczuk said there are many Skyline faculty members who will be participating.

“It’s been great to see the community rally around him and to see him try to get better and fight because that’s just the kind of kid he is,” Baczuk said. “Nobody wants to see anybody go through this, but especially not a young kid who has so much promise. I think a lot of people can relate to that, and to see the community get behind a kid like him is so gratifying and wonderful.”

Mindy said when she learned about the golf tournament from a friend, she felt overwhelmed and humbled.

“I’m just blown away at how amazing it is that not just our community, but people outside have rallied around him and given him strength to fight,” she said. “He’s got a lot of will himself, but knowing that there’s that many people behind him intensifies that will and desire.”

She added that Nate’s friends on the football team have visited him at the hospital and made sure he knows he is still a member of the team, which she said has been a huge help.

“My heart aches and breaks for him because I know how much he loves it, and how much he looked forward to this year,” Mindy said. “But he’s happy for his team, and he’s happy to be a part of it, however they will let him.”

Baczuk said that in addition to the Skyline football team, other teams throughout the area have shown compassion for Nate. At Skyline’s game against Blackfoot High School, Blackfoot’s students held up posters in support of Nate.

“It’s so great to see that while there’s still rivalry and there’s still competition, they can come together for a cause like this,” Baczuk said.

Prior to the tournament, donations can be made at donation boxes in the Walkabout Junction stores in both Pocatello and Idaho Falls and at Journey’s End Golf Course.

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