FAIRVIEW — Fairview High School is trading blue for green this weekend.
The eastern Montana school has chosen to recognize Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month by wearing green on Friday, Sept. 21 and Tuesday, Sept. 25. The Warriors host Scobey in a crucial 8-Man East football game on Friday, and the Fairview volleyball team hosts Bainville on Tuesday.
Jason Cayko, who was a Fairview native and former basketball coach in the community, passed away on Sept. 21, 2008 after suffering a spinal cord injury in 2007. While boating with friends, he dove into the water and fractured his C4 and C5 vertebrae, immediately paralyzing the father of two.
His oldest son, Carson, is a senior captain on Fairview’s undefeated football team. The Fairview community has rallied in support for Carson and his younger brother, Gunnar.
Fairview’s “Green Day” started last year as a way to honor Jason Cayko and help bring awareness to spinal cord injuries. Eastern Montana communities have seen a number of people receive spinal injuries in recent years, so the “Green Day” also supports those affected, including Bainville junior Kailin Pippenger, who suffered a T4 injury during a car crash last fall.
Pippenger is now relegated to a wheelchair but is still a member of the Bainville volleyball team as a co-captain.
“Kailin’s the exact same kid she was before the accident. She knows she can’t walk, but she’s the same kid, same athlete inside,” said Billie Pippenger, Kailin’s mother. “She still has that perseverance and determination and competitiveness. The fact that (Fairview is) bringing that awareness — yes, she is different than she used to be, but she’s still the same person. This isn’t an injury that’s changed who she is.”
Jessica Cayko, Jason’s wife, helped spearhead the efforts to bring awareness to spinal cord injuries. Her and other members of the Fairview community will distribute green ribbons in remembrance of Jason at Friday’s football game. The Fairview football team will wear green socks during its game against Scobey, and the volleyball team will wear green headbands during its match against Bainville. Fairview’s school colors are blue and yellow.
Fairview extended invitations to Scobey and Bainville to join in wearing green. Fairview students are also making signs and banners to display during the games.
“We’re all competitive against each other and yet we’re all very close-knit communities around each other,” said Donetta Asbeck, who is a staff member at Fairview High School.
“There are not enough words. The support has been amazing,” Billie Pippenger said of the eastern Montana response to Kailin’s injury. “We can walk into a gym to play a game of volleyball. We’re going there as competitors, we’ve got fans from the other team and teammates from the other team giving Kailin hugs, giving me a hug, just constant support. … There are not enough words to explain the support from the entire area. It’s something I never imagined.”
Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month was established in 2014 and is recognized every September, according to www.disability-benefits-help.org. The website states that “there are 17,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries each year.”