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'The Power of Community'
'The Power of Community'
Posted on 10/28/2019
Erwin coach Tate MacQueen (right) hands with Devin Gildner before handing him more than $4,400 raised by the soccer community.Devin Gildner poses with his leopard print cane.The Erwin Soccer community raised more than $4,400 for an Owen graduate who suffered a severe injury over the summer.

By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

Generosity. Camaraderie. Courage. This is what soccer spectators felt at Erwin High's Senior Night before the game even began. Erwin faced off against Owen for this special game that started with a special surprise.

Devin Gildner, former Warhorse Soccer captain, suffered a rare spinal injury while surfing in California in July. Told by doctors that he might never walk again, he ignored the odds and resolved to prove them wrong. On Thursday’s Senior Night game between Owen and Erwin, Devin walked onto the field unassisted to serve as honorary captain.

After the coin toss, Erwin coach Tate MacQueen asked Devin to stay on the field. MacQueen revealed a wooden bowl containing more than $4,400.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Devin said on Thursday. “It’s a huge relief and a weight off my shoulders.”

The Erwin Soccer community raised the money over the last few months to help Devin’s family pay for physical therapy sessions not covered by his insurance company. Before each match, coaching staff would briefly describe the family’s situation and send a junior varsity player through the stands with a bowl.

“Soccer has such a strong sense of family,” Devin said. “I used to play against Erwin, and here they came together to help someone across the field.”

MacQueen once coached at Owen, and maintains a close friendship with Owen’s coach David Fiest. Beyond soccer, he teaches his athletes to be mindful of others.

“Serving other people is what really matters,” he said. “Some things transcend sports and competition. Thursday was a huge night, a very powerful night.”

Devin’s father, Justin Gildner, said that while Devin did the work and had the spirit to succeed, he and his family have been strengthened by the outpouring of love.

“If I thought Devin’s story should have a theme or a conclusion, it would be the power of community” he said. “He felt every ounce of support and love every minute of this.”

Devin originally planned to play soccer at Warren Wilson College this year. He’s taking a year off while he recovers from his injury, but he plans to attend the college next fall.

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Be sure to check out the coverage from The Citizen-Times and WLOS.

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