Teammates, community rally behind Highland athlete fighting for life after car crash

“Brayden’s Fight Club” turned out in force as the Highland town square filled with people wearing red, holding candles and praying for Brayden Baer.

Brayden, a student at Highland Middle School, was a passenger in a two-car accident shortly before 7:30 a.m. on Thursday. The impact sent both cars into a ditch, one of them with an engine fire, according to the Illinois State Police report. Three other people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital.

Brayden was airlifted to a St. Louis area hospital, where he remains in an induced coma and in critical condition.

It was the second crisis in less than a year for the Baer family, whose daughter Alyse battled meningitis last year.

“How could this be happening to our family again?” asked Carson Baer, Brayden’s older brother Sunday night. He spoke on behalf of the family at the candlelight vigil, as his parents Steve and Elaine Baer remained by his brother’s side, he said.

He thanked the large crowd for their support of the family.

“It’s times like these I realize how blessed we are to be part of this amazing community,” he said.

Half the square was filled with supporters, using phones or candles to hold up a light for Brayden. A large white board was on display in front of the stage for people to sign messages of encouragement to Brayden and his family.

Brayden is a 6-foot-1 athlete, a member of the Highland Middle School seventh-grade basketball and football teams and participates in a few travel teams as well, according to his coach, Bill Logsdon. He teared up a bit while speaking at the vigil, and soon several families were sniffling.

“We’re all heartbroken,” he said.

Logsdon said Brayden is the kind of player they call “a cheat code” — the player who always stands up and plays well.

“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Logsdon said. “He’s got a warrior spirit.”

The team is very close, but they’re holding up, he said. “All we’re trying to do is provide as much support as we can,” he said. “They’re supporting each other.”

The team members were joined by student athletes from other cities, even rival teams, to offer their support for Brayden and his teammates and to help out with tasks like clearing snow for the vigil.

The vigil was organized by Danielle Delaney-Davis, a family friend, and Pastor Matt Embrey of Mosaic Church in Highland.

A GoFundMe has been organized to help the family pay its medical bills, with a goal of $30,000. As of Sunday night, $27,255 had been raised. In addition, a local T-shirt shop is selling T-shirts with messages like “Brayden’s Fight Club” and “Fight Like a Baer” and donating the proceeds, and Logsden said the basketball team planned to hold an open practice Monday for anyone who wanted to play, at $20 a donation to support the Baer family.