LIGONIER — The family of longtime West Noble coach Chuck Schlemmer has announced he will taken off life support, while also looking for ways to give back to the community before saying goodbye.
Posts from the Schlemmer’s children made Monday and Tuesday state that Schlemmer, who suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit by a truck on Friday afternoon, has lost brain activity and will be taken off life support.
Before that happens, however, they are exploring the possibility of organ donation as well as raising money for medical bills and, if there is money leftover, a possible future scholarship in his name.
The longtime West Noble cross country coach was seriously injured on Friday afternoon when he was hit on his bicycle by a U-Haul truck. Police allege that Ryan Gravit of LaGrange was driving while intoxicated and struck Schlemmer head-on on River Road near Ligonier.
Schlemmer was airlifted to a Fort Wayne hospital with critical injuries including a brain injury, broken bones and a collapsed lung.
In a public Facebook post Monday, Schlemmer’s daughter Liz said the family was waiting to determine if he was able to make a full organ donation before they take him off a ventilator.
“He has been the healthiest person I know (he’d give a lotta 30 yr olds a run for their money — probably literally if you dared to challenge him). And we all know he has a strong heart,” his daughter Liz said in a post.
In the Monday Facebook post, she also asked if anyone with B positive blood needed an organ donated to them, and said they might be able to “fast-track” them to those in need.
“It could be a day or couple of days to see. We may also take the time to seek a second opinion to get the highest confidence in our decision,” Liz wrote.
On Tuesday evening, a GoFundMe page titled “Team Schlem” was set up, with a message from Zack, Liz and Cait Schlemmer and the rest of the family, recapping their father’s condition, including “extensive trauma to his head that has left him with no activity in the brain.”
“Our family has decided to take him off life support, due to the severity of the brain injury and the fact that in the extremely rare instance that he even would ever wake up again, he would never be anywhere near the person we all know him as, and he could never live without constant care in the bedridden state — which we know he would never want,” the family message states.
The page is raising funds for medical bills and in the instance that insurance and donations cover the cost the emergency care, any additional funds would be put toward a scholarship fund in his name.
They also noted the extreme amount of support the family has received from the community since the accident.
“We have greatly appreciated the amazing outpouring of support and messages and memories we have received,” the post states.
As of 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, the $1,000 goal had already been shattered, with 62 donors contributing $4,305. The fundraiser had been shared more than 500 times within the first four hours.
The GoFundMe page can be found at gofundme.com/team-schlem.
While Schlemmer’s family has been updating everyone on his status, the rest of the community offered mountains of support.
At West Noble High School, where Schlemmer was still teaching the day he was hit on his bike, a display case and the hallway surrounding it has been dedicated to messages to the former coach.
In front of the display case is a table with markers and paper so students can write their responses.
“Mr. Schlemmer,” one note starts out, “You have touched the lives of so many. You have empowered West Noble is [sic] many ways. Thank you. You mission to make the world a better place will continue on. You will be missed Schlemdog.”
“Schlem,” another note reads, “You were the most inspiring teacher. I was in your class during the lockdown last year and I remembered that no one really was scared because you’re the one protecting us. Keep us protected now.”
Another note was signed by cross-country runner Yarency Murillo.
“I will never forget the way your face lights up each time we won or the time you threatened to take my legs if I didn’t use them better. No matter how tired you were, you were there running by my side until you stopped coaching. Even after retirement, you continued to believe in me. We will continue to run miles for you, Schlem.”
Some of the notes were posted in the West Noble Charger Nation public Facebook group. The page has been a popular spot for people to show support, too.
One post in the group included yearbook pictures of Schlemmer running at a cross country meet as a West Noble student. The yearbook, which was from 1979, also said Schlemmer was the team captain that year.
An image that has been circulating is a graphic of a green ribbon, which stands for organ donation. Some have changed their profile pictures to the ribbon to commend Schlemmer on potentially saving lives of others who need an organ transplant.
Some on Facebook also suggested selling T-shirts and decals with the green ribbon, or adorning football players’ helmets with the symbol for the next game.
News Sun Editor Steve Garbacz contributed to this report.