When Laurel Hill School teacher and coach Ronnie Smith asked me to do a story on a fundraiser for former LHS athlete Katie Free, I was more than happy to help. I had the opportunity to cover Katie throughout her Hobo career, and she has always been a great ambassador for the school and community.


When Laurel Hill School teacher and coach Ronnie Smith asked me to do a story on a fundraiser for former LHS athlete Katie Free, I was more than happy to help.



I had the opportunity to cover Katie throughout her Hobo career, and sShe has always been a great ambassador for the school and community.



A Boston butt fundraiser is 3-6 p.m. Feb. 21 across from Laurel Hill School. Butts cost $20 each and proceeds benefit Free, who awaits a heart transplant.



It didn't surprise me that Smith and others within the Laurel Hill community wanted to help Smith. Small towns and teammates have a way of reaching out to one of their own.



My little corner of the world was shaken about the time I was writing the story on Katie's fundraiser, which appeared in Saturday's News Bulletin.



Last week, I learned that one of my high school teammates and best friends, Mort Deer, has throat cancer and is in a hospital in Mobile.



Mort played receiver for Gulf Breeze High School's football team and was a sprinter and long jumper on the Dolphin track team. He competed against Crestview and Baker in track and played football at Jack Foster Stadium. He even once served as a makeshift windshield wiper for the track team one day, but that's another story.



The last several days have been spent working, sleeping and communicating updates on Mort's condition on Facebook.



Sunday, I made the trip to Alabama, stopping off in Summerdale to meet my best friend and teammate, Ken Hardy. Together, we made the trip to Mobile to visit Mort and share our love and support for him.



While visiting with him, we found out he needs help dealing with the cost associated with cancer. And now, Ken and I find ourselves looking at ideas for fundraisers as we come to the help of our friend.



We've already had several classmates, teammates and friends offer support, which doesn't surprise me. Gulf Breeze, like Laurel Hill, is a small, closely knit community, and that is especially true for those of us who grew up in the 1970s when our town and school were still young.  



But one doesn't have to be from Laurel Hill, Gulf Breeze, Baker or Crestview to appreciate the community and team's value. I'd dare say there are countless Katie Free and Mort Deer stories being written across this country. And in many cases, teammates are reaching out to pick their friend up.



One of the first things most athletes learn is it's not about me; it's about the we that comes with being a part of a team. My success means nothing if a teammate fails.



There is something about being on a team in the good times, and sharing the joy that comes with accomplishing something together. As the years have passed, I've realized that needing teammates and being a good teammate is as important 20, 30 or 40 years down the road, as it was those hot summer days so many years ago.



Mort Deer was a teammate and classmate that had a way of picking people up. Katie also has a way about her that puts a smile on the faces of those around her.



Yes, teammates do pick each other up and lend a helping hand.



Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletinís sports editor. Email him at randyd@crestviewbulletin.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.