Hanging from the neck of Blake Helms is a pair of dog tags.
They are symbols of love, hope and motivation.
One reads, “Blake, Proverbs 6:20-22, For Mom.”
The other is a cross.
Both remind Helms of the day that everything changed.
“I actually had an exam that day and I got checked out early … and they deemed her unresponsive around 2:30 that afternoon,” said Helms, a Rocky Mount High baseball rising senior who is playing this summer with Coleman-Pitt Post 58’s Legion squad.
Helms’ mother, Brenda Gurganus, had battled for two long years with breast and spinal fluid cancer. Gurganus, who was 45 years old, passed away on May 15.
“I was actually there when it happened,” Helms said. “I was by her bedside the day she passed. I took it real hard. I felt like I would never be able to do anything again … I felt my world turn upside down.”
Lost and scared, Helms felt there was nothing to do. He kept searching and finally, he was brought back to the sport that he had loved from day one – baseball.
“Baseball helped me regain my focus,” he said. “It’s my release point.”
Helms and his teammates could see and feel a difference on the field.
“He has been a huge addition for us”, said Post 58 teammate David Williams. “He has impressed me, and I respect him a lot, especially with what he has gone through.”
Helms has come a long way, but he said it’s still difficult looking up in the stands and not seeing his mother.
“It affects me a lot,” Helms said. “Going from seeing my mom at every game, to her not being there at all, leaves a void that can’t be filled.”
And even though she’s not there in person, Helms still relies on his mother’s recipe for success.
“My mom always told me to have a good attitude,” Helms said. “That’s one thing that I’ve always struggled with. With her passing, it has pushed me to keep a better attitude and to prove myself.”
With the mental part of the game growing and those words instilled in his mind, Helms has had no trouble in finding his true motivation.
“I find my motivation in making my mom proud and showing her that I’m becoming the son and person she has always wanted me to be on and off the field,” he said.
Before every game, Helms grabs the dog tags and kisses them.
He says a short prayer before the game starts.
He’s ready to give it his all to help his team because he knows that he has an angel in the outfield.
“I know she is looking down on me,” he said. “When I’m out on the field, it’s just me, my mom and the game I love.”