Family is everything to the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team. Saturday, the Skyhawks will look to the community to once again support that family.
When the Skyhawks host Eastern New Mexico at noon Saturday ahead of the men’s game following immediately after, admission will be free. FLC will ask for donations that will go to benefit the family of former player and assistant coach Mary Rambo and her 7-month old son Leland.
Since he was born, Leland has had to make routine trips to Children’s Hospital Colorado for medical care. He has multiple rare conditions, some which are still being diagnosed.
He has to be fed through a gastrostomy tube inserted into the belly that he has had since he was first admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. He also suffers from multiple forms of seizures and spasms and a movement disorder that has yet to be fully diagnosed.
“I feel relief that we’ve made it this far,” said Mary Rambo, who went by Mary Brinton during her playing days when she was a star for Pagosa Springs High School and Fort Lewis College. “We’re back home with our family and community with us.
“Saturday, it’s going to be bittersweet to not be on the sideline helping coach. But the sweet part is we are here, part of this Fort Lewis community even though I’m not coaching right now. I’m especially excited to see how much the girls have improved over the summer and into this season.”
FLC also hosted a benefit game last season for the family of now head coach Orlando Griego and his wife Katherine Sumrall-Griego and their daughter Lana, who was born nine weeks premature and fought complications early in her life. FLC was able to raise nearly $10,000 for the Griegos.
“It’s very emotional knowing what they’ve gone through and what we have gone through,” said Griego, who was an assistant alongside Rambo on Jason Flores’ coaching staff last season. “You never want to see anybody go through that. I’ll probably be really emotional. They are a great family, great friends and genuinely good people. The great thing about Durango and this community is we rally around our own and support each other. We are very grateful we can do this for them.”
Rambo’s husband Nathan works for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, and Mary holds a position at Mercy Regional Medical Center. They both have had to miss substantial time at work to care for Leland and his many trips to the Front Range. The Rambos have witnessed firsthand how the Durango community comes together to support its own.
When their vehicle broke down, a GoFundMe was started to help them get a new car to continue making trips to Denver.
“On one of our trips home from Denver, we didn’t make it home with his seizure meds,” Mary said. “We had two doses left but needed more by the next evening. Leland’s pediatrician called around and found that no local pharmacies carry that medicine. I asked on Facebook if anyone could help, and within two hours, there were probably 15 different options on how to get that medicine to us. It ended up being flown that night, and we had it in our hands within 12 hours of even realizing we had forgotten it. That was pretty eye opening to see the work of our community and team.
“It’s definitely been a team effort to help keep us going these last seven months. Having support is critical. Orlando and his wife have also been through it, and having them as support and checking in on us has been so valuable.”
Rambo graduated from Pagosa Springs High School in 2011 as a highly-decorated athlete and student. She was Colorado’s Ms. 3A Basketball in 2011 and MVP of the Colorado All-Star Game. She was a two-time first-team all-state selection.
Rambo ranks fifth in FLC history in career blocked shots (95) and free throws (313) and is 11th all time in rebounding (538).
After her playing days, Rambo became a high school referee.
FLC senior forward Kayla Herrera-Flores is the lone Skyhawk player to have played alongside Rambo during the 2015-16 season. Many of this year’s players were on the roster when Rambo was a coach a year ago.
“I think it is awesome we are able to give back to a coach, former player and a great person who has been part of the community for so long,” Herrera-Flores said. “That’s what I love about this team and this program is we are always looking for ways to give back to the community and help others. Mary has given so much to our program. This is the least we can do for her and her baby Leland and her husband.”
Rambo thanked the community of supporters and Jason Flores, her former head coach at FLC and current athletic administrator, for his support in setting up the benefit game.
She hopes to someday return to coaching. For now, she will look forward to reuniting her family with the FLC basketball community Saturday inside Whalen Gymnasium, where a poster with her picture still hangs above the backboard on the west side of the gym.
“Mary is a good person all around, and we miss her up here,” Griego said. “I know if her complications weren’t what they are, she would be here with us on the bench. She’s still following and keeping up with us, and we are going to give it all we have for her.”