Lending a hand: Bow coach helps raise money for student-athlete in need

  • NHTI’s James Wilson competes with the men’s soccer team during the Yankee Small College Conference finals last fall. Courtesy of NHTI

  • NHTI’s James Wilson Courtesy of NHTI

Monitor staff
Published: 2/10/2019 9:55:52 PM

James Wilson eventually grew tired of the unknown.

Without transportation, he didn’t know how he would get to class or soccer practice at NHTI. Without enough money, his next meal wasn’t always a guarantee. Without a permanent place to stay, where he would rest his head at end of a long day was constantly changing.

“He’s pretty much on his own,” Bow baseball coach Ben Forbes said. “He has the emotional support of some family, but doesn’t have the financial support that someone who’s 20 and trying to find their way needs.”

Forbes, who also serves as an adjunct faculty member at NHTI, first met Wilson through a sports management class.

After taking some time to get to know him, Forbes realized just how much was weighing on the young man’s shoulders and decided to lend a hand.

Wilson was born in the Ivory Coast before bouncing between Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire as a teenager. His mother still lives in Pennsylvania, but health issues prevent her from providing more and his father died when Wilson was younger.

As he tries to secure his future on his own, Wilson has found ways to get by with what he has, using soccer as an escape when he can while quietly struggling with the day-to-day requirements the life of a student-athlete brings.

“I don’t have any family in New Hampshire,” Wilson said. “I really don’t have nobody to help me out except Ben, the school and my mother with whatever she has in her pockets to help.”

Over the last year, Forbes, along with friends and family, have provided rides, food and support for Wilson. Last month, Forbes started a GoFundMe for Wilson with a goal of raising $2,500 to provide him with reliable vehicle and a year of insurance.

It took just 22 days to reach that mark.

“It was unbelievable. Not only from the standpoint that we exceeded the goal, but there’s also some behind the scenes things that happened,” Forbes said. “Some people who wanted to contribute behind the scenes and didn’t want recognition and we’ve been able to some great things.

“The support of my family and friends, colleagues, whether it’s baseball coaches in the state who contributed to former students from NHTI and Bow High School,” Forbes said. “It’s stunning to see how people can really come together and help somebody out in their time of need.”

One of those donations came from Portsmouth Christian Academy varsity baseball coach James Spinelli, who saw Forbes reach out and immediately thought to help.

“I was thrilled that one, he hit his goal in such a short period of time, and two, he’s going to have a little extra money in the fund to assist James,” Spinelli said. “Whether it’s maintaining the car, or even with school, it’s a kid that’s working hard trying to better himself and for the community to rally I think is quite phenomenal.”

The GoFundMe, along with a hefty donation from Hearts for Kindness in Concord, helped Forbes secure Wilson a 2003 Ford Taurus Wagon. Not only that, the money not used for the car was spent on books for the semester, some clothes suitable for the harsh winters in New England and other simple items like food for Wilson’s dorm room.

“He’s just a fighter. All he needed was a little support,” Forbes said. “He just needed a little guidance and some people that were positive in his life to encourage him and give him the strength to keep on keeping on.”

The gesture was almost too much for Wilson, who grew emotional as he discussed the impact one small act of kindness can have.

“My reaction was very grateful. I appreciated everything Ben and them are doing for me and also what the community has been doing for me as well, having my back,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t like some of these kids that grew up in my year and had a car when they first got to high school. I’m 20 years old and this is my first car that I’m going to drive for my own self. I very much appreciate it and it’s going to help me do what I need for my life and get my life together.”

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