Ryan Scott was on the job at Lax.com in Norwalk on Monday afternoon when he got word that Ty Guarente had been in a bad accident. He headed straight for St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.
Ty is his guy.
“I don’t remember a time when we weren’t friends,” Scott said Thursday.
They go back to the second grade. Scott and Guarente met playing baseball, been buddies ever since. They went to the same middle school. They went to Brien McMahon High. They played football. They played lacrosse. Ty was a goalie.
Scott played lacrosse his freshman year at Eastern Connecticut. Ty went to West Virginia. Scott went out to Morgantown to visit him.
“I fell in love with the place and ended up transferring there,” Scott said.
What are the words to the John Denver song they sing after Mountaineers football games? Oh, yes, “Almost heaven, West Virginia. Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River. Life is old there, older than the trees. Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze.”
The boys were fraternity brothers at Theta Chi. Scott arrived from Eastern after his sophomore year and would graduate in with a degree in criminology in 2017. Ty graduated the year before in sports management. This spring, along with Ivan Matson, another 2012 McMahon graduate, they are on first-year head coach Joey Smith’s lacrosse staff. Forever buds.
“Ty Guarente is the kind of guy who will do anything for anyone,” Scott said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say one bad word about him.”
The word would not be good Monday. Shortly after noon, News12CT reported there was a crash on northbound Route 8. Three lanes between Exits 5 and 8 were closed. In the hours and days since, Scott has pieced together the events. Guarente was attempting to switch lanes, there was a vehicle there, so he swerved back. In a hard rain, he lost control.
“The car flipped over four or five times, end over end — not on a roll — bumper to bumper,” Scott said. “It took them like an hour to cut him out with the Jaws of Life. He ended up in the back seat somewhere with his seat belt still on.”
Scott’s voice grew soft on the phone. “Crazy,” he said.
Guarente serves as head coach for the McMahon junior varsity and freshmen. Smith said he had talked to him at 9 a.m. Monday. He was excited to go against Norwalk later that day with his freshmen. Instead, Smith would gather the young guys before they got on a bus. He told the varsity in a team meeting.
“It was still fresh,” Smith said. “I informed the boys a little bit, but didn’t fill them in totally. It was rough.”
Guarente had three broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, but worst of all: He had multi-fractures of his spine. An additional fracture, Scott said, was found in emergency surgery. There was damage to the spinal cord. He is paralyzed from the waist down.
“It’s tough to see him like that,” Scott said. “He’s my best friend. It’s tough to know what the outcome could be, to know it’s even an option right now. Obviously, we’re hoping everyone is wrong. We’re all pulling for him.”
“My immediate level of concern was how was his brain?” Smith said. “Thank God, it’s OK. Regardless, it’s going to be a tough battle. The rehabilitation is going to be tough. We are all rallying behind him.”
The varsity rallied on Tuesday against Kennedy Catholic of Somers, N.Y.
“The kids dedicated the game to Ty,” Smith said. “Emotionally, we got off to a slow start. It hit hard. I saw the look on their faces. When you’re in high school you feel invincible and then something like this happens. That’s why we always preach family on and off the field.”
The Senators fell behind, 5-2.
They won, 16-10.
The boys rallied.
“The first thing they wanted to do was talk to Coach Ty,” Smith said. “He called Coach Ivan and we got him on speaker phone. The team was pumped.”
There would be another rally, the kind of community rally that lifts spirits in the face of hardship. The kind of giving that not only helps a best friend and an assistant high school lacrosse coach, but puts on full display the better angels of our nature.
In a tragic turn of circumstance, Ben Leshow, a fraternity brother of Scott and Guarente at West Virginia, died in an accident April 15 in Western Pennsylvania. The funeral was last Friday morning. Because of work, Scott couldn’t get out there. Guarente made the trip.
“Ben was a great friend to us, he was my pledge marshal,” Scott said. “It’s unbelievable that the two crashed in almost the same situation.”
Scott had seen the GoFundMe page for Leshow’s family. He had never started one before, but he decided to give it a try. Scott wrote: “If anyone knows Ty or the Guarente family personally, you know that they would drop what they were doing in a heartbeat to help out a family member or friend. Let’s do the same for them.”
Scott set a goal of $10,000 on Wednesday and he waited. He didn’t wait long. Within eight hours, the goal was met. Guarente has been a wrestling and football coach at Staples, a football coach at Bullard-Havens. There are friends from McMahon, from Connecticut, from West Virginia. You treat people right and when you are most in need, they will be there for you.
Scott pushed the goal to $30,000 and, remarkably, by 7 p.m. on Thursday, almost $29,000 was raised.
“We’re doing this for Ty’s family, whatever they feel he needs,” Scott said. “He will need a new car, renovation to the house. There will be a long rehabilitation.”
“Ty has made a lot of relationships,” Smith said. “I coached him since he was a freshman. To me, he’s still baby Ty Ty. I want to squeeze those cheeks of his. The minute I got the job he was one of the first kids to reach out — ‘Whatever I can do.’ He had coached freshman football at Staples two years ago with my brother Drew. I knew he could be trusted. And he’s so likable.”
There was something else, Scott said.
“Just a year ago, Ty was super unhealthy, really overweight,” Scott said. “As of this April, he had lost 190 pounds. He goes to the gym every day. He runs. He plays basketball. He was on a roll. Such a dramatic difference. He was in such great shape when this happened. I think that makes it hard on everybody.”
Perhaps, it was suggested, the blessing is in that Ty needed to be in such good health to survive the horror of Monday.
“One hundred percent,” Scott said. “I don’t think he would have made it otherwise.”
Smith said 200 “Ty Strong” shirts have been ordered. The Senators will wear them in warm-ups. As a show of unity for a good cause, Smith said Stamford coach Mike Nazzaro ordered 30. McMahon and Norwalk play home games against Stamford and Wilton on May 4. The hope is that all four teams will wear “Ty Strong.”
“How much money we raised, that shows the type of person Ty has been to everyone,” Scott said. “People are donating who haven’t talked to him in years. That shows the lasting effect he has on people. Ty would do anything for anyone, and now we’re doing it for him.”