On Saturday, November 1, 2014, 16-year-old, Britton Shipp and his high school Sadies date were riding a side-by-side ATV, hurrying back to their cabin to get out of the rain and hail storm. They hit a puddle of some sort, lost control, and rolled. Britton sustained massive head injuries and was life-flighted to the hospital, literally fighting for his life.
I was sick to my stomach as soon as I heard the news. My heart ached. Britton is a good friend of my own 16-year-old son, and he is like one of my own kids. After hearing about his condition, I raced to the hospital to be of help somehow. Hugging and holding his parents as they wondered whether their son was going to make it was gut-wrenching. More and more people from the community came to the hospital as they heard the news. Within two hours, there were 50-75 people in the waiting areas and halls of the Intensive Care Unit. And the crowd kept swelling. For days people flooded the hospital – often three hundred people at a time. The hospital hasn’t known what to do. They haven’t seen anything like this before. Why? Why so many people? Who was this kid, this family, that drew so much attention?
Jesse and Sommer Shipp’s family has been a great part of our community. Britton is a triple sport athlete. He plays football, basketball, baseball and hunts with his dad. His dad, Jesse, has coached his kids in a variety of sports for years. The Shipps know every team, most every player, every coach, and many parents, and not just in our region–but all up and down the state and across state lines. Jesse is competitive coach and loves to win, but he has a way with kids that make them love to play their sport. (Even my own son, who I used to literally have to drag to practice, now loves football because of Jesse Shipp.) In many simple, everyday ways, the Shipps have touched many lives.
Since Britton’s accident, I have been witnessing what I call the “ripple effect.” All the good that this family has given to others is coming back to them. But taking no credit for the service that’s been pouring in to their family, Jesse told me the other day, “It’s just the community we live in. This would be happening if it were any one of our kids.” Perhaps he is correct. The ripple effect has washed over this community before.
Just two years ago, I watched this community rally around over 60 families as a flash flood hit the city and terribly damaged homes and property. In the muddy aftermath, thousands of people showed up to the flooded homes with shovels, tractors, gloves, and helping hands. Unbelievably, within two days every affected home was cleared out. FEMA couldn’t believe what they saw when they arrived three days after the flood struck. People were helped physically by those volunteering their time and labor, and financially through donations and fundraisers. It was overwhelming to see so many simply doing what they could to help – cooking meals, doing laundry, or shoveling mud.
The same rippling good deeds have been coming back to the Shipp family. As we’ve helped coordinate fundraisers and silent auctions we’ve stood in awe at the support that’s poured in, and the calls, texts, and messages from people all over the community who want to do what they can. We’ve seen a spin-a-thon at the gym, a cut-a-thon by some hairdressers, benefit concerts, a pitching clinic whose proceeds are being donated, a cosmetologist donating her weeks’ worth of wages, and even little kids selling lemonade on the corner. A few days after the accident a woman at a local rival high school called me saying she had organized a shirt sale for all the high schools in our region to raise funds for the Shipps. We’ve watched entire football teams unite in prayer and fasting, and the community unite their faith to see a miracle for Britton. The list keeps growing. The ripples keep flowing.
Someone asked me today, “What is going to happen if he doesn’t make it? Will this shake the faith of all these kids?” I pondered that question, and I don’t think these kids will be shaken. They – all of us – will only be stronger. Because of the impact of this family and boy, we’ve united in faith and we are better than we were a week ago. We’ve met more people than we knew a week ago. We’ve put rivalries and issues aside and come together for one cause and purpose. We’ve prayed more than we’ve prayed in a long time, and some people for the first time. No matter the outcome, we will all come out better because of what is happening now. We know that whatever happens, God is involved and so we will have peace.
Amazing things happen when a community is willing to see each other as brothers and sisters, and that kind of unity is infectious. Just days after the accident, Jesse (who is also a hunting guide) had a scheduled hunt with a man from a small town in Texas. After the hunt this man called Jesse and said, “When I came on your hunt, I noticed you all were different. You never swore. You prayed over every meal – and we do so, too – but you addressed your ‘Father in Heaven.’ You loved your family so much. After I returned home we held a candlelight vigil in our little community for your son, and 2,500 out of 3,000 people in our town came and prayed for you, even though they’ve never met you.”
It has been inspiring for us to see the impact one person has had on our community, and how it has inspired all of us to give back to them. It has taught us that it only takes one person to think of a way to serve and do something instead of sitting at the hospital, and this act can then spur on another and another. That is pure service. That is pure joy.
Britton’s older sister, Autumn, recently started a blog where she posts updates about Britton’s condition. Her words perfectly convey the power of the ripple effect and uniting with others in faith:
“I’ve learned a lot through this whole thing, but something stuck out today.
Given, these are less than fortunate circumstances. But. If there is anything good that has come from this situation, it is the concept of love and support.
Whether or not you are family, or friend. Coach, or teammate. Neighbor, or stranger. This community has been absolutely incredible to my family. And it just goes to show that we live in such a special place and are surrounded by such special people. I dare say that nowhere else in this entire world has got what we have.
The Pineview football team (a rival high school) just made an appearance at the hospital, and what sweet boys they are. I really think that what one of them had to say was spot on:
‘We know that this is a very tragic event. But, because of the strength Britton and the Shipp family are displaying it is drawing our school, our team, and community tighter together as a whole. Britton is making everyone realize that no matter where we live, that we, as human beings can all pull together to help another in need. Even though football is a central part to how we know Britton, this event proves that there are more important things in this life. We are blessed to have known such a great kid like Britton before this injury, and we pray and know that he will be a stronger kid when he returns home.’
From Mosiah 2:17: And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
With much love and gratitude,
Please join with us in praying for Britton and the Shipp family. To stay updated on Britton’s condition, visit Autumn’s blog at believeforbritton.blogspot.com, or follow along at #believe4britton on instagram.
If you’d like to help the Shipp family cover medical expenses from the accident, donations are being received at Britton’s Go Fund Me site found here.