Team rallies around fellow member and his family after fire
It was in the early morning hours of Nov. 26 that Jake Seiler received a phone call from his mother that would change his life forever.
“I was at my apartment when I got a call at 1 a.m. from my mom, and she was hysterical,” Seiler said. “So she called me and was like, ‘Jake, our house is on fire or she said something like our house burned down, it’s gone, the whole thing is gone.’ I was in shock and couldn’t believe it.”
The fire, which began when some old ashes ignited in a trash can by the side of the house, destroyed the entire house in a matter of hours.
“I was just in shock, I couldn’t even believe it,” Seiler said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? This is a joke. This is not real life. This doesn’t happen to me, this isn’t going to happen to us.’ It was just a freak occurrence that you would never anticipate happening to yourself.”
Seiler is a senior at Grand Valley State University and for the past three years has anchored the defense for the men’s lacrosse team.
“Jake was a pillar of our defense from my first day at Grand Valley,” said head coach Tim Murray. “He has just the athleticism and the quickness and just physically the toughness which are huge attributes for a defenseman.”
Although he will be missing this season with a torn ACL, he has still done what he can to help the team.
“Since he has blown out his knee, he still doesn’t miss practices,” Murray said. “We don’t have the best schedule of practices and with the amount classes that happen in the afternoon and evenings, we felt the only time we could get the entire team there was in the morning.
“Most of those practices came from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. in the morning, and it was cold and miserable,” Murray said. “Jake was still there handing out water every single day and this just speaks to how important the camaraderie and importance of the student aspect of this lacrosse group is. It’s not that he was just there, it was that he was doing whatever he could.”
Seiler has always been there for the team and now that he needs them, they have been there for love and support.
“I really can’t even describe how they really all feel for me,” Seiler said. “They all have been helping keep me in good spirits over the past couple weeks and have helped keep my mind off of it. They say their condolences, they say they are sorry. Every single one has offered to help in any way they can.”
Although Seiler was not staying at the house at the time of the fire, his family was all there but was able to get out because of the family’s smoke detectors.
“The fire started right next to my brother’s room, basically, and luckily my dad heard the fire alarms, went to check it out, went upstairs and saw the smoke,” Seiler said. “He woke up the kids, got them out, got my mom out, everyone out. The fire alarms saved their lives, otherwise my brother might not be here.”
In the days and weeks following the fire, the Seiler family has seen support from students, friends and the community.
“The thing that has helped me the most has been the overwhelming outreach we have received from everyone about the situation,” Seiler said. “So many people have come out to help us. I never would have imagined this many people would come out to help our family. It’s just a great feeling to know that we have so many friends and family that care about us and are here to support us.”
Not only has the Seiler family received love and support from friends and family, they have also received overwhelming support from those in the lacrosse community.
“They understand that a member from our team is hurting and going through a tough time,” Murray said. “More importantly, it’s not just a member from the opposing team, it’s a member of the lacrosse community in West Michigan that we are all a part of. I think they see that and they realize that and they will do anything they can to help. They know, if the shoe is on the other foot, we would do whatever we can for them.”
Moving forward, the Seiler family will be staying in a church friend’s cottage until insurance can help to rebuild what was lost.
“It honestly has been a blessing in disguise just knowing that everyone can come so close and that people are good and people can do wonderful things for each other,” Seiler said.
Murray said that for those looking to help the Seiler family, GVSU’s lacrosse team will host a benefit game Dec. 6 and take on crosstown rival Davenport University at 7 p.m. in the Kelly Family Sports Center.
Those who attend are asked to give a minimum donation of $5 but are welcome to give more. There will also be a silent auction to raise more money for the family.