SPRINGVILLE — At first glance, it seemed a simple grammatical error:
CHASE’N OUR DREAM: STATE IN ’08
The slogan was coined a year ago by Jill Woods, mother of one of the state-tournament-bound Springville High School girls’ basketball players.
Upon closer inspection, it made perfect sense.
This is a love story — between a brother and a sister, between a grieving family and its community.
It’s a story that, in death, did not end, but became stronger.
“It’s the dash between the dates (of birth and death) that counts. Will your dash be filled the way you want it to be?”
— Carly Martin
Chase Martin was born in 1988 with a heart defect. By the time he was 7, he’d had five surgeries. Carly Martin was born, a healthy baby girl, three years later.
Chase couldn’t participate in organized sports. Instead, he supported his school. More specifically, he supported his sister.
“He was very, very proud of Carly,” said Beth Martin, their mother. “Every single game she played, he was there. He bragged about his sister to anyone who would listen.”
Carly began playing basketball in third grade for a Springville team that competed in the Salvation Army League in Cedar Rapids. She was part of a class of girls that showed potential in sports.
After Carly’s games, Chase would grab a basketball and shoot. Carly would rebound for him. Game after game, year after year.
Chase and Carly were typical siblings. They teased. They argued.
“We’d fight over the computer,” Carly said. “We’d fight over who got to sit in the front seat of the car.”
By the time Carly entered high school, it was apparent that her class of girls was gifted. Brian O’Donnell had arrived as a young coach, and the once-moribund program was showing signs of life.
Several of the girls in Carly’s freshman class would dress on the varsity team. Some might be immediate starters.
“I couldn’t wait,” Carly said. “This wasn’t little-kids basketball or junior-high basketball. This was the real thing.”
Then came a rainy evening at a rural church.
Oct. 5, 2005. The date to the right of Chase Martin’s dash.
“I hope the person that receives Chase’s eyes sees the world through them the way that Chase did.”
— A portion of Brian O’Donnell’s eulogy at the funeral for Chase Martin, an organ donor
It was a Wednesday night, the fall dinner at Prairie Chapel United Methodist Church. Dinner had ended. Chase, Carly and two cousins were playing catch with a football.
Homework beckoned. Carly waited in Chase’s truck, then he ran out to meet her.
He collapsed. She figured he had slipped and fallen in the wet grass. It was much worse.
Carly raced to the church for help. Their father, David, and others tried to revive Chase. Somebody called for an ambulance. And a helicopter.
“Everything happened so fast,” Carly said. “But it all seemed so slow. I was lost; I didn’t know what to do. I prayed as I watched all that was happening.”
They worked on Chase for 40 minutes at St. Luke’s Hospital. His heart couldn’t hold the beat.
The funeral was four days later in the Springville gym. The place was packed.
“I think those people needed us as much as we needed them,” Beth said. “We found ourselves comforting as much as we did being comforted.”
“Every minute of every game, I’m going to do it all for you. Every drop of sweat, every bruise, and every mistake, I will pick myself back up and push myself like there is no limit. You are the one who gives me all the desire to dedicate it all to you.”
— Carly Martin
After Chase’s life ended, Carly’s was at a crossroads.
“When something like that happens, you can go one of two ways,” O’Donnell said. “You can let life get you down, or you can find positive ways to inspire others. I have a lot of admiration for her. A girl that age shouldn’t have to deal with that. She handled it better than most adults would.”
Basketball practice began about a month after Chase was buried.
“It came at the right time,” Carly said. “The pain was always there,
really close. But basketball was able
to distract me a little bit. I was surrounded by my teammates and my friends.
“Basketball saved me.”
Over time, the Orioles realized their potential, and then some.
They won the Class 1A state championship last year. They returned everybody from that team and take a 24-1 record and a No. 1 ranking into today’s quarterfinal against Martensdale-St. Marys.
This year’s slogan: “THE CHASE GOES ON.”
Carly is the starting point guard. She averages seven points per game, deferring statistically to the team’s “Big Three”: Katie Eiben, Callie Kloubec and Sarah Davidson.
Her role is to distribute, to defend and to lead.
“I could have hated life and hidden from the world. Instead, I try to take what I have learned and embrace it.”
— Carly Martin
Tragedy hit Springville again in August when 7-year-old Mitchell Horak was killed in a farm accident. Carly has served as a mentor for Emily Horak, Mitchell’s older sister.
The Martins’ healing process is just that — a process. One that continues, day by day.
It took more than a year for the family to have a picture taken of them, just the three of them.
“A lot has changed in all of us,” Beth said. “A day doesn’t go by that we don’t tell each other that we love each other.”
The door to Chase’s room remains open. The sheets on his bed haven’t been washed since before he died.
Carly rarely visits the cemetery — “When I go there, I just lose it,” she said — but goes into Chase’s room regularly. She writes about her feelings. She tries to feel his presence.
“They say time heals everything,” Carly said. “I don’t believe that’s true. There’s always going to be a hole in my heart. Something is always going to be missing for me.”
But not forgotten. Never forgotten.