The Manhattan Christian community, just west of Bozeman, lost of one their pillars earlier this fall. Now when you watch the Eagles basketball teams warm up, all you see is the number 55.
Brian Eekhoff attended Manhattan Christian School and wore just that on the court.
“He was my golf mentor,” said senior shooting guard Jillian Frye. “At Christian we have to do a senior project and he was also going to be my senior project mentor so really he was everything. Golf coach, mentor, friend…he was everything.”
Sophomore Caidin Hill added, “(He) always had a big old smile and stuff so we’re trying to have a lot of joy in our season. He was always very kind and helpful to anybody. We’re really trying to show what Brian was like through how we play.”
The Eagles and Lady Eagles dedicated their season to the Eekhoff family after Brian passed away in a car accident in August.
“The day that it happened it was just another real tragedy for us here,” said head coach Jeff Bellach. “We wanted to remember him in some way and honor him and his family and support them in some way, so this is one way we thought we could have done it.”
If the Eekhoff family sounds family, that’s because they are. Brian’s younger brother, Eric, was killed in a student driving accident in 2003 - but the community and family grew together through the heartache.
“They were just a great example of being faithful and handing tragedy the best they could with obviously a lot of support too…but it was a tough time,” said Bellach.
So when they were hit with the news a second time, they knew they’d have to be even stronger than before.
“It was a real shock and it really broke up our community a lot. You can really just see how tight fit our community is and how much we rely on each other to get through the hard times,” said Frye.
As the Eagles continue to take the court wearing number 55, it’s not only for the past but also for the present.
“We don’t know why things happen like that but we just trust in our God that he’s got the plan and hopefully though this, through the motivation that it gives us more people will come to know our savior.”
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