Community rallies around local teen |

Community rallies around local teen

Dylan Silver
Published Caption: Douglas Etten / Tahoe Daily Tribune

While students at South Tahoe High School are settling into their class routines and the sports teams are hitting the fields for early practice, one seat and one spot in the lineup are still empty.

About a month ago, junior Cody Higgins, one of the school’s budding baseball and basketball stars, unexpectedly suffered a series of strokes. After weeks in the hospital, he returned home this past weekend. With his condition improving, the community has rallied to support him and his family.

“I want to say I’m so proud to live in a small community that when you’re in need, they’re there to help,” said Tina Roybal, who organized a fundraiser last week for Higgins. “I would never live anywhere else.”

The Higgins family preferred not to speak with the media and, instead, directed calls to family friends.

Hundreds turned out to Roybal’s Sept. 8 spaghetti dinner, so many, in fact, servers ran out of pasta with dozens still in line. All seats were full at the Eloise Street Moose Lodge and parking was difficult to find. More than 140 silent auction and raffle items were donated. Countless desserts, including baseball cupcakes, lined the tables. Between the event and private donations, the community has raised around $17,000 to help with medical bills and other expenses.

Many of the player’s basketball and baseball teammates and coaches were at the fundraiser as well as friends from the football and tennis teams. Even members of opposing teams came.

“He’s a nice guy,” said Robbie Poet, a junior at George Whittell High School, who’s competed against Higgins in several sports. “Every experience I’ve had with him has been a good one.”

Many at the fundraiser didn’t even know the South Tahoe junior, but just decided to come out for a good cause.

“We have an incredible community,” said school district employee and Women of the Moose member Angie Keil. “When we find someone in need, the whole community comes out to help. We’re just blessed. This is Tahoe at its best.”

One afternoon in early August, Higgins was supposed to meet friends at Kahle Community Center for informal basketball practice. When teammate Tyler Sharp arrived, he saw Higgins lying in the parking lot.

“He just kind of looked up at me,” Sharp said at the fundraiser. “He didn’t acknowledge me. He didn’t know it was me.”

Sharp tried to talk to him, but Higgins couldn’t understand or respond. Sharp watched Higgins trying to call his mom, Shelly Higgins, but he couldn’t use the phone, Sharp said. Sharp took the phone from him and made the call. The experience was shocking, Sharp said.

“It’s just an eye-opener,” he said. “It could’ve happened to anyone at any moment.”

Higgins was airlifted to Sacramento, where doctors found he had an arterial dissection of his carotid artery, which caused several strokes. Doctors performed two emergency surgeries to remove clots and put Higgins into an induced coma.

Now awake, the straight-A student is recovering. Sharp talked to him last week.

“He said he’s getting better,” Sharp said. “He got to shoot some hoops a little bit yesterday.”

As of Monday, Higgins was at home in South Lake Tahoe. Though still struggling with the illness, he hopes to return to school as soon as possible, Roybal said.

“He really wants to go to homecoming,” Roybal said. “His goal to get out of the hospital was just to go to homecoming.”

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