Eastern rallies after alum dies from leukemia
While Friday night will likely be an emotional roller coaster for Lisa Culp, it comes as no surprise that the Eastern York athletic community is rallying around her family – again.
Culp will serve as an honorary captain for the Golden Knights’ football team, when it hosts Central Martinsburg at 7 p.m. Friday. It’s just one of the many ways the school continues to honor Culp’s son, Brandon Hohenadel, who lost his battle with leukemia Oct. 11.
Eastern athletic director Don Knaub asked Culp to be a part of what promises to be a special evening. He also said he would understand if it was too soon for the family.
But Culp accepted immediately.
“Being an Eastern graduate myself, I have always known how this community gathers together in times of tragedy,” Culp wrote in an email. “When Mr. Knaub called about being an honorary captain at Friday night’s game, I was choked up.
“This district is our family and having them continue their support of Brandon through this event is just incredible."
The game also marks Eastern York's homecoming. While the school's student section typically wears its trademark blue and gold colors on such an occasion, they will instead hold an “orange out” in tribute to Hohenadel’s favorite color and college team, Syracuse.
Simply put, it’s what the Golden Knights family does.
“The Eastern York community is generally close-knit anyway,” said Knaub. “Then, when you add these type (of) situations, it adds a greater sense of that. It puts everything in perspective for the entire school and certainly the athletic department.”
Hohenadel was diagnosed during his senior year, 2012-13. An athlete through much of his schooling at Eastern, he had many friends, several of whom were on the Knights’ basketball team.
It was during senior night that boys’ basketball coach Jon Reichard, a classmate of Culp’s at Eastern, took Hohenadel to mid-court prior to the game to honor him as part of the team.
“Every time I got a chance to see him, it was a breath of fresh air,” Reichard said. “When we brought him out to the court that night with his parents, it was really moving. I was trying to keep it together.
“The seniors that were on that team, including my son, wanted to make sure he was a part of the festivities. That became a real focal point for that group. That was the night we won the section. It was a big night.”
That spring, the boys’ volleyball team honored Hohenadel, as did other activity groups throughout the school.
“The students, staff, faculty, administration, and community members have supported Brandon and our family since Day 1,” Culp wrote. “They have organized fundraisers, sent many prayers and always had the nicest things to say to — or about — Brandon.”
“Being a coach around kids at that age, especially with my son and daughter, it hits hard,” Reichard said. “The community here is really good at pulling together for things like that.”
Coach fighting his own battle
Almost ironically, it is Reichard who is also receiving attention from the community. Last week, the coach underwent surgery at Johns Hopkins for prostate cancer.
Reichard said the day of his surgery, performed by the same doctor that treated former West York boys’ basketball coach Bill Ackerman, he had nearly 600 messages on Facebook. His wife also received a phone call of support from Culp, which floored the coach.
“The kids were taking time out of their busy day,” Reichard said. “Lisa Culp called my wife to make sure my surgery went OK. She’s making arrangements for Brandon. To take time out to check on me when she was going through that blows me away..”
“Whether they were an athlete or not, Brandon had an impact in some way,” Knaub said. “That tells you what kind of family Brandon comes from that they are reaching out to others. That speaks volumes to the type of person Brandon’s mom is.”
In the midst of own recovery, Reichard is thinking of Hohenadel, who was in the same graduating class as his son, Dalton Reichard.
“I can’t help think this kid never got a full shot. There’s a 21-year-old kid that spent how much time in the hospital and never got to enjoy parts of his life,” Jon Reichard said.
In joy and sorrow, thinking of others is a part of the Eastern York community, something that will be on full display again on Friday night.