“We left with nothing, but we’ve still got each other.” –Justin Wilson
For Justin Wilson, freshman kinesiology major, Emporia State represents more than just the average college experience.
On Aug. 4, Wilson and his family faced an adversity unlike any other. A wildfire on the family’s farm in Luther, Okla., engulfed the entire property. The Wilsons escaped with only the clothes on their backs.
After running from the fire, the family reached a farm pond, located approximately a quarter of a mile away, where they stayed until the flames were put out.
Currently, Wilson’s family resides at a hotel in Okla., but they lived at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Okla., for a few days. Justin’s father, John Wilson, is a retired military veteran of 22 years and was provided a temporary place to stay until the family obtained a more permanent home.
On top of the continued support from his friends and family back home, Wilson said his parents are still staying strong.
“We left with nothing, but we’ve still got each other,” Wilson said.
Garin Higgins, head football coach, said that the position Wilson is currently in is very unique, but football is helping him keep his mind occupied.
“I think he understands that he’s family here and he’s been using football to not think about the situation too much,” Higgins said.
ESU, in conjunction with the Emporia branch of ESB Financial, have provided support for Wilson and his family members during the past two and a half weeks. A fund has been set up to provide the Wilsons with adequate necessities to cope with their losses.
While there are several initiatives to help out the Wilson family, there is one person that is behind all the procedures and conversations with the NCAA.
Carmen Leeds, senior associate athletic director, has handled all of the measures needed for Wilson and his family to be taken care of.
“I had to get a waiver from the NCAA first before we could do anything to help Justin out,” Leeds said.
Leeds said the waiver process was one that was fairly quick and efficient. A verbal waiver was obtained and the physical copy of the waiver will be on record late this week.
Wilson said he and his family are grateful for everything that ESU has done to make him feel more welcome.
“They helped us out a lot. All the guys out here on the team and some of my friends have just made me comfortable,” Wilson said.
So far the fund set up for Wilson and his family has collected over $1,900.
The Wilsons did have insurance on their house and are slowly working on acquiring the necessities they once had.