Several young Homer hockey players got more than they bargained for this past weekend during a trip to Anchorage to play when they came across a homeless man in need of serious medical help. Their coaches say they stepped up and became an example of the kind of community Homer is.
The Homer High School hockey team was in Anchorage the weekend of Friday, Nov. 3 for three games. After their two games on Friday, their bus took them to the Fred Meyer on Northern Lights Boulevard for food. But four students — Charlie Menke, Douglas Dean, Tucker Weston and his younger brother Phinny Weston — wanted to go to the nearby Qdoba restaurant instead.
They began walking there from the bus, said Menke in a phone interview Tuesday. He said they noticed a trail of blood and several puddles as the crossed the street. Then they got to a median.
“That’s when we saw him,” he said.
Menke said a homeless Alaska Native man greeted them and talked normally with the group at first. He told them a man had tried to rob him for $20 inside Fred Meyer, and that he had punched the man, Menke said.
“Then we noticed that his hand was like, super bloody and there was blood all over the ground and stuff,” Menke said.
The man asked the boys for money for bandages, which Menke said they didn’t really have a lot of, so they invited him to come with them instead. The group made its way to Qdoba on East Benson Boulevard, where Menke said he went inside to grab napkins. He said he eventually got a medical kit from the restaurant’s manager. When he came back, out, Tucker Weston was on the phone with paramedics, having called 911, Menke said.
Head coach Chase Rockett and assistant coach Steve Nevak were at another restaurant when they got a call from the boys. Nevak headed over to Qdoba to be see what was going on.
“On the way over, I did notice a blood trail,” Nevak said.
He also described large puddles of blood at a crosswalk and near a BP gas station he passed on the way.
“I saw Charlie with gloves and bandages … and he was cleaning up his wounds and cleaning him up,” Nevak said of his arrival.
He described the man’s wounds as “gruesome.” The man was also inebriated, and at one point was starting to get agitated as he was in pain, Menke said.
Nevak, who previously worked for the Alaska Native Medical Center through an Access to Recover grant, said he’s had experience working with vulnerable populations. He and Menke sat with the man and talked with him, keeping him calm until an ambulance arrived.
Once first responders got there, they told the group they could leave. Upon getting back to the team’s bus, they learned from the students who had gone into Fred Meyer that those students had seen trails of blood inside the store as well. Those were cleaned up by staff members, Nevak said the man told him.
Nevak said some of the students had questions and that the coaches talked the situation over with them. Of the group that went to the man’s aid, he said, “we should be proud.”
“Walking back over to the bus, the ambulance left, and the ambulance driver tipped his hat to us,” Nevak said.
Rep. Paul Seaton’s office has been made aware of the event and is currently considering how to recognize the students for their actions, a representative at the Juneau office said Tuesday.
“We didn’t really even like discuss it with each other at all,” Menke said of inviting the man to come with them. “We didn’t really talk about it at all, we just invited him to come with us because it was just our first instinct.”
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.