ROCKINGHAM — Football, like all sports, is a unifying tool that brings people closer together, especially in Richmond County during times of need.
And for one former Richmond Raider football player, garnering community support and extending a helping hand to a current Raider linebacker was an easy decision.
This past week, starting sophomore linebacker Bobby Little was diagnosed with leukemia, confirmed to the RO in a phone call with Little’s stepfather Derick Little.
Little, who has started in all nine of Richmond’s games this season, is currently under the care of doctors in Chapel Hill.
“Bobby is in great spirits and he isn’t letting this get him down,” Derick Little said. “He’s really staying focused on his schoolwork more than anything.
“The doctors are doing a really good job with him and he begins chemo (on Friday),” he added. “He was just moved into a bigger room so he can have more visitors. His timeframe (at the hospital) could be as long as two months.”
When Wesley Jackson, the kicker on the 1998 Richmond state championship football team, heard of Little’s diagnosis, he jumped into action.
“When I heard the news about Bobby, my first thought was to try and raise as much money as we can to help him and his family,” Jackson said. “No. 1, it’s a kid and he’s one of our kids.
“In my mind, if you’ve ever put on a Richmond Raider uniform, we’re a brotherhood,” he added. “I see all of these guys as a blood family and when I saw one of our kids was hurting, I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”
Jackson, who is the owner of Premiere Real Estate of the Sandhills, said $6K has already been donated to match whatever other funds are raised. He hopes the annual Richmond-Scotland rivalry game on Friday will help the proceeds.
Lee Way, a 1991 graduate of Richmond and owner and president of the Pella Window & Door distributor in North Carolina, donated $5K from his business.
Also a part of the Pella team is former two-time state champion Richmond quarterback Brad Denson, who served as offensive coordinator for several years.
Jackson’s team at Premier Real Estate donated the other $1K to be matched, and Jackson said Way’s “kindness” was much appreciated.
The hope, however, is to keep seeing that amount continue to rise. Jackson and Richmond head coach Bryan Till both said the funds raised will be given directly to Little’s family to help with “any expenses incurred by family during this time.”
John Carter, a local entrepreneur who owns Shirt Action Tees in Rockingham, donated t-shirts with the message “34 Strong” on them. Jackson said the shirts will be sold at Friday’s game for any donation amount, and general donations will also be accepted.
When Till announced the news to the team on Monday, he said there was an emotional response. Even so, he said he’s grateful for the way the community is responding.
“The community that we’re in is great and I’m not surprised by the quick reaction and support,” Till said. “They love their Raiders in any form and we’re honored they’re taking care of one of our guys.
“Our players will be very thankful and they really love Bobby. He’s a big part of our team as just a sophomore, and that shows the strength and the bond he has with his teammates.
“We will do anything in the world to help at this time,” Till continued. “We want Bobby to know how much we care about him. All the cliches that go along with this, we want to make those true. And we want Bobby to know this love and support is true, that’s the most important thing.”
The money raised will be entered into a 510(c)(3) non-profit fund established by End to End, an organization to help legitimately raise funds for any non-profit need.
“What (Jackson) is doing shows that Bobby is cared for,” Derick Little said. “With everything we’re going through, we really appreciate it. We never thought anyone would come out of nowhere to help us this way.
“It’s so good to see this support system behind us. We’re going through it with Bobby, but he’s going through more pain and suffering. All we can say is how thankful we are as a family.”
Through nine games this season, Little has been Richmond’s second-leading tackler with 47 total tackles (5.2 per game). His 14 tackles-for-loss and 7 quarterback sacks are team-highs.
At Friday’s game, all of Richmond’s senior players will walk out on senior night with balloons reading the No. 34, Little’s jersey number.
To donate, contact Wesley Jackson at 252-412-0648 or Bryan Till at 910-997-9812.