BELLBROOK — Just like his recovery, support for injured Bellbrook High School student-athlete Payne Sigman has reached amazing status.
Sigman’s brain was critically injured in a Jan. 19 car accident while on his way to church. Friends and relatives immediately began a “Pray for Payne” campaign to show moral support for the then-comatose junior, who can now use his phone and speak.
Support began locally. Then it went viral.
Now his story made it all the way to the Sochi Olympics where a Japanese speedskater, with a connection to the Sigman family going back to the 1980’s, held up a sign that read “Play 4 Payne.”
Some Koreans are reportedly “Working for Payne,” and a Valero gas station in Bellbrook recently started asking its customers to “Pump for Payne.”
The family set up a journal on caringbridge.org so people can follow Sigman’s progress. It has more than 43,000 hits.
“The overwhelming support we’ve gotten from the community, we never dreamed anything like this,” said Sigman’s father, Mark. “It’s amazing. Just amazing.”
It started with a “Pray for Payne” sign at Ritter’s Frozen Custard on Dayton-Xenia Road in Beavercreek. Payne Sigman is an employee and best friends and teammates with Josh Rogers, the son of co-owners, Beth and Kyle Rogers.
“I think it was within the first couple days,” Beth Rogers said. “We posted on our Facebook page so folks could follow his story.”
Several of Bellbrook’s basketball opponents had “Play 4 Payne” shirts and a Twitter account dedicated to Payne Sigman was also created.
Most recently the Valero station on Main Street joined the cause.
“Some high school students came in and asked me if I would put it on the sign,” assistant manager Jessica Becker said. “They were doing anything for Payne. They said it would really be appreciated by the schools. A lot of people are thanking us. It’s kind of like a community thing.”
Beth Rogers said she plans to keep her sign up until “he’s back scooping custard.”
Based on his current recovery rate Payne Sigman will be out of Children’s Hospital in Columbus and scooping custard sooner rather than later.
“He’s exceeding timelines,” Mark Sigman said. “The doctors won’t tell you much other than every brain injury is different. (But) they are using words like ‘thrilled’ and ‘he’s ahead of the game.’ “
In addition to using his phone and speaking, Payne Sigman has also been able to respond to the world-wide support.
“When you ask him questions and things, he answers them,” Mark Sigman said. “We show him (Pray for Payne) pictures. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion but his eyes seem to brighten. I think he senses it.”