Berry Tramel

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Edmond Memorial classmates rally around J.R. Cunningham

by Berry Tramel Modified: August 25, 2014 at 10:45 pm •  Published: August 25, 2014
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J.R. Cunningham's family photo, just before he was afflicted with post- concussion syndrome. (Photo by Bryan Terry)
J.R. Cunningham's family photo, just before he was afflicted with post- concussion syndrome. (Photo by Bryan Terry)

Matt McReynolds grew up in Edmond playing basketball with J.R. Cunningham. He was a teammate of Cunningham’s at Edmond Memorial on the 1993 Class 5A state championship team. They graduated together in 1994. And when McReynolds read my Saturday column about Cunningham, which you can read here, McReynolds was moved to do something.

Cunningham’s health has deteriorated in recent years due to what doctors believe is post-concussion syndrome. Cunningham has lost his job and can’t work.

My column ran Saturday. McReynolds emailed me Sunday.

“I can say with certainty that I am not alone in being shocked and saddened by the severity of J.R.’s health issues that you so somberly outlined in your article this past weekend,” McReynolds wrote. “Thank you for bringing attention to J.R.’s struggle, and the struggles of all basketball players that have to live with the effects of concussions.

“Over the past 24 hours, there has been an outpouring of support on social media and desire to help the Cunningham family.  In response to this and in coordination with the EMHS Class of 1994 20 Year Reunion committee, we have just launched a fundraising site for J.R. and his family (www.94for50.myevent.com). We decided to name the effort for this fundraising drive ’94 for 50′ in reference to J.R. and his EMHS Bulldog jersey #50, and our goal to raise donations up to and through the EMHS Class of 1994 20 Year Reunion, September 26-27, 2014.

“I would greatly appreciate it if you would help facilitate the public’s awareness of this site for the Cunningham family.”

So there you go. I reached out to McReynolds and found out that he and his family have been living in the St. Louis area for eight years. The site was launched Sunday morning, and by Sunday evening more than $1,800 had been raised, with an average of $150 per donation. “I hope we can keep the momentum going over the next month and really have something special to honor J.R. and his family by the time our 20 Year Reunion rolls around in late September,” McReynolds wrote.

I heard from all kinds of people associated with Cunningham. A high school teacher, old friends, former opponents, media members. Abe Hayes wrote this:

I had the pleasure of being friends with J.R. in high school, and while he attend Edmond Memorial and I attended John Marshall, we became friends. The ’90s weren’t generally a time Edmond kids really made their way into the inner city. I will tell you this; he was my ringer in pickup basketball games. If somehow this white guy got some pickup run at Mackleberg open gym, I always made sure to call or page at the time both J.R. and my other friend, who happened to be John Marshall’s starting point guard. We’d surprise the heck out of 20-30somethings and run the court. I can vouch he’s a tremendous man. Great article and if there’s any way to help or contact please let me know.

We often see people our age and younger suffering through disabilities, but we rarely examine the whys or long term impact. I last saw him at a doctor’s building doing his job about 10 years ago and he seemed really happy. Hope for the best for him; he’s one of the few of us that truly deserves it.”

 

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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