FAIRMONT — Members of the Fairmont community gathered Thursday at the Falcon Center on the Fairmont State University campus to wish one of their own the best of luck as he makes his way to the Rio Olympics.
Perry Baker, a Daytona Beach, Florida, native who graduated from Fairmont State in 2013, will represent FSU and the United States as a member of the USA men’s Rugby sevens team in this year’s Olympics.
Thursday, in an event organized by FSU and Fairmont State director of marketing and branding Amy Baker, people had the chance to say “good luck” to Baker on behalf of his college community.
“We had a really positive turnout for the party,” Amy Baker said. “The great thing was that we had kids here for Falcon Center Day Camp, and I think that they really enjoyed it.”
These kids took part in all of the festivities to wish Perry Baker good luck as he travels to Rio and represents the Friendly City on the world’s highest stage.
The kids were given replica gold medals and signed a rugby ball and a dry-erase board wishing Perry Baker the best in Rio.
“We also had a sheet that they could sign that had a ‘Good luck, Perry’ message on it,” Amy Baker said. “We’re going to hang that sheet in the Falcon Center.”
Everyone in attendance then got to watch a highlight video of Perry Baker during his time on the football field with the Fighting Falcons as well as some highlights of him playing rugby.
In addition to watching his highlights, these well-wishers got to learn all about the inspiring story of Perry Baker.
“We talked a little bit about who Perry is, his local connection and how his story is such a really inspirational one,” Amy Baker said. “He had that setback in professional football and he didn’t let that stop him.
“He still had that dream and he was able to go on and be this internation, famous rugby star.”
Gary Lanham was recruiting coordinator and offensive line coach at FSU when Baker played on the football team, and he came to Thursday’s event to honor a player he had grown close to in Fairmont.
“I came over to honor Perry Baker for everything he’s done for me and my family,” Lanham said.
According to Lanham, with the exception of Christmas, Perry Baker spent holidays with his family and built a bond with him and the rest of the community.
“It was a really good reception,” Lanham said. “I hadn’t really planned on coming, to be honest, but I thought, ‘Perry did so much for me when I was coaching here. I’m going to give back to him.’”
With children, community members and current FSU athletes in attendance, everyone enjoyed pizza and the shared excitement of one of their own headed to Rio.
“We’re very proud of Perry,” Amy Baker said. “It’s been a very good thing to be a part of.”
For someone from this community, which boasts an Olympic star like Mary Lou Retton, to compete internationally is a sense of pride and excitement for the Friendly City.
“This is a great thing for him and a great thing for our community,” Lanham said. “We don’t have very many athletes in Marion County, West Virginia, or from Fairmont State that go to the Olympics.”
“To have somebody this close to us to be this close to doing what he’s set out to do, which is win the Gold medal, is pretty exciting,” Ryan Dumont, Baker’s offensive coordinator at FSU, said.
This story by Sean McNamara of the Times West Virginian appears here with permission. Contact McNamara at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @SMcNamaraTWV. To view the original story, click here.