Henry Sembdner was just an average 12 year old, attending middle school in South Elgin, Illinois. He lived a normal life with his parents, Henry and Karen, and his siblings.
But one day in February 2017 a horrible event took place that would land the 7th grader in hospital. Henry accidentally knocked into another student in the corridor at school, leading to a violent attack.
But it was no schoolboy tussle involving only a quick punch or a shove. Instead, it was far more severe than that. Henry was beaten to the ground, causing facial fractures and even bleeding on the brain.
Henry’s injuries were so bad that he required airlifting to hospital before being was put into a medically induced coma. You can only imagine the horror felt by his parents when they found out what had happened to their poor son.
Poor Henry remained in a coma at Park Ridge’s Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, while his heartbroken family waited for news. However, even two days after he had been hospitalized, Henry still wasn’t able to talk.
The school community was also left in shock over the brutal attack on Henry. “I cannot believe that this happened to my friend,” one of his fellow students, Alyssa Anderson, told ABC News.
Henry’s mother Karen uploaded a photograph to Facebook showing her son lying in a hospital bed the day after the attack. With tubes and breathing apparatus clearly visible, the image triggered a torrent of supportive messages.
Some Facebook friends shared the photograph, while many others left touching comments. At a time when Henry’s chances of survival were still unclear, Tawnya Giffin McCullough wrote, “I can’t even imagine. Hugs and prayers for you all.”
“Seeing him at the hospital, all of those pictures. It’s just so sad. It’s horrible,” said another pupil, Alex Best, in an interview with ABC News. It was abundantly clear that Henry had a lot of people rooting for him back at school.
In fact, his fellow pupils were so determined to show their support for Henry that they organized something quite amazing. It was all based around one fact – that Henry was a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs.
So, on Tuesday 7 February, 2017, after the attack that led to their friend being in a coma, his classmates decided to make a powerful gesture. They all turned up to school wearing Chicago Cubs clothes.
Their efforts to show support for Henry and his family even caught the attention of Anthony Rizzo, the famous Cubs player. Rizzo took to Twitter to send his best wishes for the 7th grader’s recovery.
Rizzo wrote, “Heard you are a big Cubs fan Henry. When you are better I have a couple tickets and BP passes waiting for you at Wrigley. #StayStrong.” His tweet garnered more than 75,000 likes.
Rizzo also heard that the kids at Kenyon Woods Middle School would be wearing Cubs gear to school that day. As a result he tweeted about that as well, promising to share any photos of the event. And true to his word he did indeed retweet a number of them, helping the kids increase awareness of Henry’s situation.
Not only did this help spread awareness but a popular hashtag was also born out of their collective efforts. It read, “#HenryStrong.” In fact, the inspiring degree of online support combined with the pupils’ decision to wear Cubs gear to school seemed to do the trick.
Indeed, Henry awoke from his coma and returned home to his family shortly after. ABC News released a photograph showing Henry at home with this family on February 8, 2017. They are all seen sitting and smiling on the sofa, proudly holding a big banner with Henry’s hashtag on it.
“I’m hungry!” were apparently Henry’s first words after his breathing tube was removed, providing his family with a moment of relief. After suffering such a terrible ordeal, their little Henry was back.
Henry’s mom was grateful for all the encouragement and support that had been sent Henry’s way while he was in hospital. “I think it’s amazing to see how many people can come together for just one person,” she said to ABC Chicago.
And when Rizzo got wind of Henry’s steps towards recovery he took to Twitter once again. Furthermore, he confirmed his promise of free tickets to see a game. Rizzo wrote, “Glad you are home Buddy. Keep staying #HenryStrong. See you at Wrigley this summer.”
The Sembdner family have set up a GoFundMe page for Henry, which has already raised $25,000. According to NBC Chicago, his parents have also “filed a petition in court seeking information about the attack they say was kept from them by the school district.”