GEORGE WHITLEY

As we travel through this journey called life, we can move at a rapid pace in many different places very quickly.

In a small town, however, we step, sway, and move in and out like a slow waltz with the sidewalks serving as our dance floor.

We hold firm to things like friendship, community, school pride and family. We share in the celebration of victory. We all feel the excitement and revel in the happiness.

When one suffers, we all feel the depth of their pain. When one is in need, we rally support to them in the only way a small town can. We step off the sidewalk and go to work.

White Oak’s Thomas “Gid” Rash, did just that. When asked, “Was it ever a question in your mind about giving up one of your kidneys?” Gid, without a second of hesitation, said “No.”

Rash grew up with Clay Copeland. The two were 13-year Roughnecks, having attended school from kindergarten through graduation at White Oak. They’d become inseparable ever since Mrs. Honea’s third grade class.

Copeland was a standout athlete for the Roughnecks starring in football, basketball and baseball. He won the coveted “Joe” Roughneck Award and was also voted Mr. White Oak. Copeland then went on to play baseball at UT Tyler.

The father of five, who now lives in Peaster and works for Lockheed Martin, appeared the picture of perfect health until last June.

Following the birth of his fifth child, Copeland, not feeling well, went to his doctor. It was there he found out he was experiencing kidney failure. He immediately went on dialysis and eventually was put on a waiting list for a donor.

A family search for living donors starts the process. Unable to get a family match, Copeland was then put into the database. His wife, Tara, set up a Facebook page with a link to the Kidney Foundation in hopes of finding possible friends with a match.

This project, which usually only generates five to six applicants, received over 50 would-be donors.

Rash, who still lives in White Oak and works at the Oil Bowl Lanes, was one of the first to sign up to see if he would be a potential match. He got the call in November and went to Baylor Scott & White in Fort Worth for three days of testing and realized he was indeed a match for his close friend.

”We started playing baseball together when we were seven years old. We’ve always been real close,” said Rash. “There was never any question that I’d do this if I qualified. We’re all family in White Oak. If somebody needs something, we do it if we can.”

“I always knew Gid was special. He and Clay had a special brotherly love and respect for each other. When I found out he was the one making the donation, it was just overwhelming,” said Janet Copeland, Clay’s mother. “He’s been such a part of our family for so long. They grew up together, camped out together went to see the Rangers together.”

Rash, who moonlights as a member of the regional Pro Bowlers Association, was recently named 2019 PBA Rookie of the Year. His selfless act of kindness for a friend means he will shelf his budding bowling career for a year. This was of little consequence to the 35-year-old 2003 White Oak graduate.

“My current plan of attack is to be full time on the national level by January of 2022,” said Rash. “I knew I was gonna be out for while, but there wasn’t any hesitation on my part. If I was able to do it, then I was gonna do it.”

It’s quite fitting really that February is the month of love. Because the love these two life-long friends share is truly an unbreakable bond. The selfless act of kindness to give life to another is immeasurable.

Email: gwhitley@news-journal.com; Follow George Whitley on Twitter: @GPigskinprof