WEST CHESTER, Ohio – Since 15-year-old lacrosse player Matt Stratman suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma, Leslie Renneker, a family friend, had wondered what she could do special to help.
There’s been no shortage of support for Matt and his family from the Lakota West community. Donations on GoFundMe.com are close to tripling the page’s goal. Hundreds from West Chester and beyond participated in a car wash last weekend to raise money. More fundraisers are planned this week.
Now, Renneker hopes Matt will be able to hear that support in his ears and feel it in his heart.
“I’m a mom. I can’t imagine wrapping my head around what they’re experiencing,” Renneker told WCPO.
“'I’m just one person,'” she said she thought. “'What can I do that might be different from what someone else is already doing?'
“And my camera popped into my head,” she said.
Her idea: Give Matt's friends and the community their voice.
Renneker brought her camera and a sign to that car wash Saturday. The sign said: “Record your video message to Matt.”
A total of 128 people took her up on it, offering words of encouragement to Matt in their own voices, hoping to help him heal and to be one with him and each other.
Renneker's idea is to edit the messages and splice them into one.
“If Matt can hear, which we believe he can, I thought it would be important to get all those voices in his hospital room, so his friends and the community can feel like they were there with him, and Matt can feel like they were there with him,” Renneker said.
Kathryn Vonderhaar said she recorded a message to her friend. “I said how much I missed him, how everyone is cheering him on, and working hard,” she said.
Vonderhaar said she and Matt have been friends since seventh grade, and they’ve supported each other along the way.
“By just being there for me when I’m down,” she said. “Being there for each other. Going through sports and stuff. Encouraging each other and going to each other’s games.”
Now she wears bracelets with the words “Stratman Strong.” She can’t be with him in the hospital, but she’s hoping to be with him in spirit and in voice.
“Definitely hoping he wakes up soon and we all get to see him again,” Vonderhaar said, “and everything will go back to how it used to be. Hanging out with him, being with him.”
Renneker hopes the messages provide additional comfort, inspiration and hope for Matt.
“We want him to hear that for himself,” she said. “We’re hoping that will give him a little bit of extra motivation and strength to keep fighting, so he’ll wake up and come back to his family."
Renneker believes in the power that comes from the support and love of friends.
“Really miraculous things can start happening,” she said.
Several events are planned on Matt’s behalf this week:
Wednesday, June 20: Cookies for Matt -- at Delicious Designs Cookies,8779 Cincinnati Dayton Road, 6-8 p.m. Cash only, $2 each.
Friday through Sunday, June 22-24: LaRosa's Stratman Strong Fundraiser - at 8120 Highland Pointe Drive. 20% of sales will go to Matt’s family. Several businesses are matching what's donated.