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Former James River grad rallies for Chesterfield teacher after stroke

Posted at 1:28 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 11:24:19-04

CHESTERFIELD, Va. – The community is rallying around a Chesterfield teacher who was partially paralyzed after suffering a stroke last week.

It was early in the morning when Brent Vandell, a teacher at James River High School, suffered a stroke. He was rushed to Johnston Willis Hospital, where he has been over a week and has started rehabilitation.

When the school sent out a note to inform faculty, word spread to former student Grant Gardner.

Vandell, who has taught at the school since 1998, was Gardner’s basketball coach. Vandell also teaches Health and Physical Education, along with Driver’s Education.

A photo from the 2004 team, shared by Grant Gardner, who is on the bottom row, second right.

Gardner recalls the motivational speeches that Vandell delivered as his coach, telling the then-freshman “this is so much more than basketball, you can accomplish anything off the court that you set your mind to.”

“He has affected me on a daily basis,” Gardner said in a phone interview. “It’s ironic in a way, his back is against the wall and I want to fight my tail off for him.”

Vandell, who began his career in 1996 at Monacan, was named 2013-14 Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Association for Driver Education and Traffic Safety. He previously sat on a six-person panel which helped advise former Gov. Bob McDonnell concerning a distracted driving law.

Gardner, 28, who is now the Associate Director of Athletic Communications at Old Dominion University, said that Vandell inspired him to “go this route.”

Brent Vandell,shared by Grant Gardner.

They’ve stayed in touch over the years, something Gardner pointed out as significant given how many kids Vandell has taught.

“Look at the career path he’s chosen, it’s all been to help out a younger generation,” Gardner said.

Gardner said that Vandell, who is married with two daughters, hasn’t asked for anything.

Brent Vandell, with his two daughters, shared by Grant Gardner.

“I’m reaching out to as many people as I can to help,” Gardner said.

Gardner has been posting updates from his former coach on the GoFundMe page. On Tuesday, Vandell posted that he was able to walk up and down four steps with the help of his therapist, and said; “the little things make me excited.”

“I have had many very supportive visitors and cards from co-workers and players,” Vandell wrote. “I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for all of the support I have received.”

If you wish to help you can visit the page, here.