HAZARD—Chants of “we are bulldogs” and “just win” filled the gym at Hazard High School Thursday afternoon during a pep rally — not to cheer one of the school’s sports teams to victory but to rally behind one of its own bulldogs in a fight for his life.
Principal Happy Mobelini started the rallying cry for support after finding out that Chuck Fugate, assistant high school football coach, had been diagnosed with leukemia only days before school started back this year.
“Last Sunday, we were all here working, getting ready for school to start back on Wednesday. Coach Fugate, he came in the office … I said, Chuck, you look like you’ve lost a little bit of weight. He said, yeah, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight in the last two weeks, he said, I’m not trying to,” Mobelini said.
Later that night, Mobelini said he received a call from Fugate who had gone to the emergency room after getting progressively sicker that day. The next day he was diagnosed.
“We’ve all just sort of rallied around him,” he said. “We’re just trying to do anything to make it better.”
One of the first ways the school has tried to make it better is collecting money from T-shirt sales. Every year the school prints T-shirts for students that read “Just Win,” Mobelini explained. This year, an additional shirt was printed which reads “Just Win Coach” on the front and “’Fight’ Like a Bulldog” on the back.
“Our kids always do this type stuff. We just try to do anything to help. Everybody wants to get involved,” Mobelini said.
Mobelini explained that a similar situation occurred last year with a student at the high school. By every high school student paying $1.50 each month that school year, the students were able to pay the family’s rent for the entire year.
“This is just what we do,” he said.
Senior Josi Stidham said because the school is so small students and faculty feel more like family than just simply students and teachers.
“We have a really close school, so anytime anything happens to anybody it’s like we’re all really affected. I feel like more people care about the problems,” she said.
Head football coach Mark Dixon has coached with Fugate at Hazard for 12 years, and has known him for even longer, having played football in high school with him. Fugate had not been told about the fundraising as of Thursday; however, Dixon said he did not think it would come as a surprise.
“I think it’s outstanding anytime that people step up and try to help other people. Coach Fugate is the type of guy that he’s done that many times in his life, stepped up and helped kids,” Dixon said. “He’s definitely going to be overwhelmed with the amount of people that care. I think he don’t realize how many people he’s touched; he’s a great guy.”
Many students expressed their concern for Fugate at the pep rally. Marjorie Hammonds said she has known Fugate most of the time she has been in school, and hopes, with their support, that he can push through.
“I knew Coach Fugate from, he was my track coach in middle school and high school. He was just really caring and this means a lot,” Hammonds said. “He just means a lot to the school; he’s close to my heart, too.”
Senior Collier Mobelini added that T-shirt sales are not the only proceeds going to Fugate and his family.
“We had a dance last week, we’re having another dance this week, and I’m sure we’ll have a couple more,” Collier Mobelini said. “All the money we raised at the dance goes directly to Coach Fugate, his wife, and his family to try to help with some of the expenses.”
All proceeds from the T-shirt sales will go directly to Fugate, and they are available for purchase for anyone in the community, Mobelini said.
“This is just a normal thing for anybody in the school, if this happens this would be the kind of thing we’d do,” Collier Mobelini said.