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Florida band travels 700 miles to present check to Hodge family

Fifteen weeks after that Aug. 22 day when their son Matt was critically injured when his car was hit by a train, Sandy and Tim Hodge have been waiting for another miracle – the first being their son survived the collision.

After several surgeries at Vanderbilt Medical Center for the severe head injury he suffered and an extended stay at NHC Place in Cool Springs, Matt, a senior at Page High and a member of the Patriot Marching Band, has remained in a coma and showed no signs of regaining consciousness.

The last few days, however, have been filled with small miracles and big surprises. Matt is responding to stimuli – he began to actually look at and track objects and recognize voices – a small but encouraging miracle and the first sign he might one day come out the coma, according to Sandy.

One of the big surprises occurred Monday. The Hodge family – Sandy, Tim and daughter Abby – found a family they didn’t know they had — The Tarpon Springs, Fla., Marching Band.

In late November, during a band festival in Atlanta where Tarpon Springs won the grand championship and Page High took the big trophy in their class, members of the Florida band learned about Matt’s situation. After the competition they logged onto Matt’s CaringBridge site to learn more.

“We were touched by the story of Matt and what the (Page) band has been going through,” Tarpon Springs Band parent Dewey Williams told Page band members, parents and the Hodges during a surprise presentation at the school Monday.
“Your band and our band are really similar. We wanted to do something… As a global band family, we wanted to be supportive.”

Four band members and two parents representing the 138-member band traveled from Florida to Franklin to present Sandy and Tim with a check for $2,000 and a large card signed by members of the Tarpon Springs Marching Band.

“This is an amazing opportunity we have here. It’s very exciting to be able to do this for the Hodges and Michelle (Matt’s girlfriend). We are here to support them,” Williams added.

“While we compete on the field, as bands, we all care for each other and we all want the best for each other,” explained Tarpon Springs Drum major Mike Amorello.

“We wanted to show (the Hodges) how much we care,” Amorello said as he presented the check to Sandy and Tim.
Tarpon Springs Band Booster president Ben Longhofer added, “As parents we can’t put ourselves where you are – but we can pray for you and your family. This was the best 740 miles we have ever traveled.”

Band parent Kurt Heinecke, who made the initial contact with the band at the festival told the Tarpon Springs group they were an inspiration to the Patriots.

“We have learned this past year that band is truly a family,” he said.

After the Tarpon Springs’ presentation, Page Middle School band director Ashley Harris explained her band was inspired by Tarpon Springs’ generosity. They decided to give the proceeds from their talent show to the Hodge family. She presented a check for $1,800.

With tears streaking down her face, Sandy found the composure to say, “We found a family we didn’t know was there. We would give anything not to be standing here – but thank you. We love you all and didn’t know we had such a family.”

The money is secondary – the outpouring of love and support from around the country – to the family goes beyond the building’s walls, Tim added.

The Hodge family was also surprised when they received word from Vanderbilt University Medical Center that the hospital has forgiven their hospital debt.

“That’s a huge mountain that’s gone,” Tim said.

“We have no idea what lies ahead,” Sandy added. “Our doctor said we are ‘slogging through murky water’. It could be months, it could be years before we get to the final outcome.”

To Patriot band members, Matt Hodge, who played the quad drums in the band, left a big hole in the lineup. Banding together they used the tragedy as motivation to do well, according to Patriot band member Alex Claiborne, who plays the quads in Matt’s section.

“Instead of making it a weakness, we used it as our motivator,” Alex said. “We saw Abby (Matt’s sister who plays the melophone in the band) being so strong – we knew we could do it.”

“Mrs. Hodge is so strong – she’s one of my role models,” Livy Weijers, a member of the color guard with Matt’s girlfriend Michelle. “She’s strong and fun even though she’s hurting.”

Samantha Taggart agreed adding, “She absolutely my inspiration. She’s always happy. We make sure we are always there for her.”

Director of the 96-member Page Patriot band, Erick Harris, said he was “dumbfounded and shocked” when he received an email from Williams explaining what the Tarpon Springs band planned.

“He said, ‘We want to do this for the band and for the family – we are all a part of that family.’ It is an awesome lesson for all of us,” Harris stated.

Carole Robinson can be contacted at

Posted on: 12/10/2009


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