LOS ANGELES – When Texas A&M women’s basketball head coach Gary Blair was handed the microphone inside the Aggies’ charter plane to Los Angeles, the expectation was that a few witty one-liners would follow.
Instead, Blair’s message, made close to a half hour after takeoff, was a plea to the boosters, staff, band and dance team on the flight for generosity aimed at Ken Belden, an incoming yell leader who was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident in Colorado earlier this week.
The Aggies on board answered the call, placing an estimated $1,000 in cash donations into a bag carried down the aisle of the plane by guard and former Corps Commander Alyssa Michalke. The donations will be given to the GoFundMe.com campaign set up on Belden’s behalf.
“He’s been at every single women’s basketball game, men’s basketball game, football, swimming and diving – he loves Aggies and Aggie sports,” Michalke, a friend of Belden’s, said over the plane’s microphone. “It’s unfortunate that he suffered this accident, but I think that having the Aggie family united behind this can help him in his time of need.”
Belden suffered a concussion, a broken back, three broken ribs, a broken collar bone, two pelvic fractures and a collapsed lung in the accident, according to a message shared by class of ‘55 A&M graduate Robert Winckler. Belden underwent several hours of surgery Monday night, according to a Facebook post shared by his mother.
As of Thursday afternoon, he was no longer in intensive care, current yell leader Spenser Old said.
“He’s one of those guys that would take the shirt off his back to make sure you’re doing well and go to extensive lengths to make sure that people are happy and that people are doing well,” Old said. “He always puts people before himself, so it’s unfortunate to see this. He’s also one of the most positive people I know, so if anyone is going to recover from this with a good attitude, it’s going to me him.”