A real hero: New York boy’s actions inspire all of us to help others Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Many of us are watching the Winter Olympics these days, and we’re inspired by the years of dedication and hard work it takes for athletes to compete on the world stage. Those who win medals often return home to their respective countries as heroes.

While we can applaud these athletes for their accomplishments, the recent story of an eight-year-old boy from upstate New York captured my attention as a real hero.

Boy saves relatives while losing his own life

Tyler Doohan was visiting his grandfather in his mobile home in Penfield, N.Y., on January 20 because his school was off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Reportedly, Tyler woke up at about 4:45 a.m. when the blanket covering his sleeping four-year-old cousin caught fire, according to Chris Ebmeyer, chief of the volunteer fire company in Penfield.

Tyler then woke up six of his relatives and helped them escape from the enflamed mobile home. He then ran back into the home where his 57-year-old grandfather was sleeping. His grandfather used a wheelchair and crutches after having a leg amputated due to complications of diabetes. The firefighters found Tyler’s body just a few feet from his grandfather’s. The boy’s uncle was also found dead in another part of the trailer.

Tyler saved the lives of six people. “They all would have died if he hadn’t woken up,” said Ebmeyer. All six survivors suffered minor injuries, including Tyler’s grandmother, two children, two other women, and a man.

I can’t image many other eight-year-olds having the courage to do what Tyler did. It was truly an act of caring and heroism.

Basketball team pays their respects

Some of those impressed by this boy’s heroism were the coach and members of the Silver Lake College men’s basketball team in Manitowoc, Wis. As reported to the Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, Coach Phil Budervic saw the news about the tragedy in New York on his computer screen.

“I saw the face of that boy and read about what he did, and it just moved me to tears,” Budervic said. “I thought, ‘We have to do something, this boy’s a hero — a hero in every sense of the word.’”

Budervic contacted the local fire department in New York, which in turn spoke with Tyler’s family. The family was so moved by the team’s offer to help that they invited the coach and players to attend the funeral on January 29.

Several members of the Silver Lake basketball team volunteered to be pallbearers, but Budervic had to whittle them down to five. He and five players made the 12 and a half hour bus ride from Manitowoc to Penfield to attend Tyler’s funeral and provide support for his family.

According to the Compass story, Budervic and his players met privately with Tyler’s mother, father, and stepfather shortly before the funeral at St. John of Rochester Catholic Church in Fairport, N.Y. “They personally thanked us for coming,” Budervic said. “People really appreciated that we came to show our support, and we were happy to help in any way we could.”

Learning life lessons

The coach said he was extremely proud of his players. “Helping others is what we do at Silver Lake College. If someone needs help, we will help them,” he said. “With our program, it’s first and foremost about life lessons — our core values are compassion and community; basketball comes second.”

Budervic said the Silver Lake faculty, staff, students, and the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity — the order that sponsors the school —  do a lot for their community. (On a personal note, I must add that one of my cousins is a Manitowoc Franciscan, so I know that they are a wonderful group of women religious.)

As followers of Christ, we all strive to follow what Jesus said are the “great commandments”: loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. If we do so, we will be real heroes like Tyler Doohan and can look forward to winning the ultimate prize: eternal happiness in heaven.