#PinkeStrong: Communities rally behind injured UND football player

Photo courtesy: UND Athletics
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WISHEK, N.D. - University of North Dakota junior football player Hunter Pinke has always been a faithful person. You'd often see him leading his team, and the opposing team in prayer after a game, win or lose.

Now, the 22-year-old is facing something much bigger than a football game; he severed his spinal cord in a skiing accident on Dec. 27. He is paralyzed from the waist down. The Wishek native is rehabbing at Craig Hospital in Denver. His days are filled with therapy. His faith and positive outlook have inspired the people around him, as well as those in his hometown. In turn, they've rallied behind Hunter.

There is plenty of work to be done at Sparkle City in Ashley, N.D. There are shirts to make and packages to mail. Inside each of these packages: #PinkeStrong shirts. They're being shipped around the world.

"We have to send a t-shirt order to South Korea," said Josh Weist, one of the organizers.

Others have gone to Ireland and Jamaica. Nearly 1,500 have been purchased so far. All the proceeds from these shirts and window decals will go to the Pinke family.

"It's just another example of small community helping out," said Weist, a friend of the Pinke family.

Wiest created the #PinkeStrong page on Facebook.

"I created it so that everyone could go to one place to look for updates, communicate with each other and send messages to Hunter," said Weist.

The page grew to 4,000 members in the first three days. It's at more than 10,000 now.

"A majority are people the family knows, but Hunter's faith is what is drawing people in. People are catching wind of that story and how positive he's been. He is putting his faith out in front and letting it lead. It connects with people," said Weist.

Back home in Wishek, it's all a little overwhelming for the Pinke family.

"This community is amazing. And the surrounding area and the number of people that have reached out to Hunter and our family," said Nathan Pinke, Hunter's dad.

Kelly Brown works at Pinke Lumber. She watched Hunter grow up.

"He's always been someone younger kids look up to and he has always led by example," said Brown. "What comes around goes around. He's been so kind to everyone in his 22 years. This reflects him."

The shirts, support and social media likes and shares are all reflections of Hunter's faith.

"Hunter is a strong young man. He has a very strong faith. He has helped us grow in our faith; our faith is stronger seeing how strong he is. We really need prayers, need opportunity for Hunter to get through this," said Nathan.

Prayers, like those Hunter so faithfully shared with his teammates, are now for Hunter.

To follow Hunter's story, join the group #PinkeStrong on Facebook. To order a #PinkeStrong shirt or window decal, visit pinkestrong.myshopify.com.