KREMLIN — Wearing his No. 78 red football jersey and with the aid of a wheelchair and a walker, Bryce Gannon made his way to the center of the football field for the announcement of this year's homecoming king and queen.
Gannon, 17, who anchored the defensive and offensive lines at nose guard and center last year, and Tyler Zander, 17, each lost a leg after they became trapped Aug. 4 in an auger at Zaloudek Grain Co. Gannon was released from the Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center on Monday, but took a break from his therapy the previous Friday to attend his high school homecoming.
“He was just so excited to be there,” said Steve Hoffsommer, Kremlin-Hillsdale superintendent.
With lights flashing and sirens blaring, four Kremlin fire trucks escorted Gannon as he rode in a golf cart to the school.
“This was the first homecoming where all eyes were on the king,” Hoffsommer said. “Everybody was looking for him.”
As the golf cart became visible to the crowd “the place went nuts,” Hoffsommer said. Everyone in the stadium stood up, including visitors from the opposing team, Ringwood. It seemed like the applause would never stop.
“There wasn't a dry eye in the house,” Hoffsommer said.
“It was the most memorable homecoming I have ever seen.”
The cheering grew even louder when Gannon was announced as homecoming king, which came as a surprise to Gannon, and louder still as Gannon crowned Kierstin Copage as homecoming queen and kissed her on the cheek.
“She is a special girl,” Hoffsommer said. “But all eyes were on the king. She was gladly upstaged.”
Students at the Garfield County school of 335 students have been there for Gannon since the day of the accident, Hoffsommer said.
“One day I was visiting him in the hospital. We couldn't carry on a conversation because of all the text messages from his classmates,” Hoffsommer said.
“Problem was it was during school, and kids are not supposed to have cellphones in school.”
Hoffsommer said Gannon's family has told him it will be a few more weeks before he can return to school.
Gannon's 18 classmates have made sure he is involved in all his senior activities, Hoffsommer said.
The social networking site Facebook, has a page dedicated to both boys, with thousands of followers posting messages of love and hope.
Zander remains in fair condition at OU Medical Center. A family friend said the healing process is taking longer for Zander because he also had injuries to his abdomen. The two were working together at the elevator when Gannon got his leg caught in the auger and Zander tried to help him but slipped.
Zander is a basketball player at Chisholm High School in Enid.
Joe Spurlock, assistant high school principal, said Wednesday there is a bulletin board dedicated to Zander in the main hallway of the school with his medical updates and information on fundraisers
Home to be remodeled
Enid homebuilders are volunteering their time to remodel Gannon's home.
Jared McClellan, who is organizing the work effort for Forgotten Ministries of Enid, said Gannon is scheduled to be receive a prosthesis in a couple of months. He is staying with an aunt until the remodeling is finished, McClellan said.
McClellan said Forgotten Ministries partners with 25 Enid churches to help the community with projects such as remodeling the Gannon family's home to make it wheelchair-accessible.
“We want to make sure they don't have to make any upgrades,” he said.
The volunteers started the project on Saturday, and some of Gannon's classmates showed up Wednesday to help paint his bedroom, McClellan said.