Bereft and feeling devastated, 15-year-old Cody Birns didn’t know where to turn when his mom Jennifer had a stroke in September. Football was the one activity that helped him forget his anxiety and stress.
Halfway through the Regina Minor Football league season, the teen found himself spending most of his time at home helping to care for his two younger brothers.
Jenniffer Birns was just 32 when she lost the use of the left side of her body and needed a wheelchair to get around. She is grateful to the teammates and parents of her son’s football league for their support during a difficult time.
Birns told 980 CJME parents in her son’s league rallied around the family to ensure Cody could keep playing.
“They would come and pick him up because I couldn’t drive. They would talk to him after, they would make sure he was alright,” Birns explained.
“They simply asked, ‘What can we do? Let us talk to you, let’s give you a ride.’ Some would have pep talks with him in their car, ‘If you need to talk buddy, we are here for you,’ is what they said.”
Birns said her recovery has been a long journey. She continues to regain strength, and now uses a cane to help her get around.
Through it all, she said, Cody has found solace and compassion in the team.
“They were the reason he got back out on the field and he was able to cope the way that he was afterwards,” Birns said.
Birns was feeling well enough to attend one of the league’s final regular season games, but hadn’t expected the surprise the team had in store.
The strip worn under the players’ eyes to avoid glare was purple, her favourite colour. The boys also wore purple tape around their wrists and ankles.
“They helped me get up and they all stood with me for the pictures and the chant on one, two, three was, ‘Birns’ squad,’” she said.
While the team lost that particular game, Birns said they showed Cody that football is about more than just the score.
“They played that game for Cody, for their teammate, to show him, you know, we are all here and we support you,” Birns said.