Recently, Allyson Teem was working in her yard when a young man approached her.
She didn’t know him, but he had known her son, Hogan, a popular Clayton High School baseball player whose sudden death in 2012 cast a shadow of grief over the community.
The boy told Teem: “I love Hogan so much. He was the first person who came up and talked to me when I started high school.” Teem said it’s one of many stories she’s heard since the death of her son, whom she calls “one cool kid.”
Last month, many of Hogan’s teammates, friends and family members paid tribute to him at the third annual HeartChase in downtown Clayton. The event, a fundraiser for the American Heart Association, groups participants into teams that compete in fitness-based challenges like dancing, a ropes course, tire pulling and outdoor bowling.
Michelle Gray of the American Heart Association said this year’s HeartChase raised about $14,000 – money that will support heart-disease research and education.
This is the second year the event has honored Hogan, who died in December 2012 after collapsing during a preseason baseball workout. An autopsy found Hogan died from an irregular heartbeat coupled with a weakened heart muscle, conditions that don’t show up during the regular physical exams that high school athletes must get.
Since her son’s death, Teem has become an advocate for more expansive testing for athletes. She has promoted free electrocardiogram screenings and is lobbying state lawmakers to make the tests mandatory.
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that in the United States, 2,000 people younger than 25 die from sudden cardiac arrest every year. An electrocardiogram, a noninvasive test that measures electrical activity in the heart, produces images that can expose irregular rhythms.
Teem said her son never had a heart screening, which she said should be required with all sports physicals.
Hogan never missed a day of school. Seriously, his mother said, he was always there.
“Part of it was the social aspect,” Teem said, adding that her son was quick to strike up a conversation with anybody; it didn’t matter who they were.
At his funeral, one of the nearly 800 attendees told Teem that while she didn’t know Hogan, he still walked her to class every day, carrying her books.
“It makes me smile,” Teem said, referring to the stories she hears about her son from time to time.
Hogan’s family called him “Sport” growing up, because he played soccer, football, baseball and basketball from a young age. Once, at age 12, he broke both of his arms at the same time but still went to a sports camp with two casts.
“He was always all about being active and doing things,” Teem said.
Hogan’s peers continue to keep him in their thoughts too, as baseball teams from Clayton High and other schools have donated thousands of dollars to an effort to build an all-inclusive “Miracle Field” in Smithfield. Chris Key, who chairs the capital campaign for the Partnership to Build a Miracle, said donations in Hogan’s name total more than $14,000.
This year’s HeartChase drew about 125 participants, including many of Hogan’s friends and teammates from high school. The Clayton event is one of many held throughout the nation.
“The American Heart Association has a lot of heart walks, but they are usually in larger metropolitan areas,” Gray said. “The whole idea behind HeartChase is to get a really fun event into smaller communities.”
For more information, go to www.heart.org.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104