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Mourning, prayers, an offer of help

Ashland teen Maxwell Gordon remains in critical condition at Rogue Valley Medical Center as the community begins to rally with offers of financial support and prayers.

The 17-year-old athlete remains sedated following severe injuries to his head and spleen in the car crash that killed his 20-year-old brother, Nicholas Gordon, early Wednesday night, said Steve Mitzel, Ashland High School football and swim coach.

The loss comes hard on the heels of another death in the Gordon family — a beloved grandfather. Michelle Gordon's father died shortly before Christmas, said teammate Edwin Lee, 17.

Matt Sampson, Southern Oregon Regional Director for Sparrow Clubs, read about the Gordons in the Mail Tribune.

Sparrow Clubs are a school-based charity that raise money for families in financial hardship because of a child's disability or life-threatening disease.

Sampson is researching the possibility of adopting Max as a Sparrow. The concept is "kids helping kids in medical need," he said.

If Max qualifies — and if Stan and Michelle Gordon agree — the Sparrow designation would "give kids the opportunity to raise tax-free money for this family during this time."

Other community members have announced private donation accounts, which they pledge to donate to the Gordon family.

Hospital officials say Max Gordon's condition remains critical. But Mitzel said he's hearing rumors of improvement.

"To what extent, I am not sure," he said. "But even a mild improvement is great news."

Nicholas Gordon, the driver of the vehicle, was killed at the scene. The two brothers were on their way back from a two-day ski trip to Mount Bachelor when the accident occurred on Highway 62 near the Willamette Egg Farm, Mitzel said.

Several of the football team's players and parents headed to RVMC Wednesday night after they heard the news, said head football coach Charlie Hall.

The senior is an all-conference defensive back on the Grizzlies football team. Max Gordon also played right field on the state championship local American Legion baseball team last year.

Although small in stature — standing just 5' 7" and weighing only 150 pounds — his physical strength and fighting spirit earned him the Coach Dave Kitchell Award for "Most Inspirational Player."

Coach Kitchell died Nov. 18 at age 51 after a long battle with cancer.

Nicholas Gordon was very close to his younger brother, and proud of his successes on the playing fields, said his Shop 'N' Kart co-worker Eric Nelson, 27.

The crash occurred when Nicholas Gordon attempted to pass another car two miles east of Eagle Point. Gordon was driving westbound in his 1998 Subaru Impreza when he entered the opposite lane to pass another car. A 2005 Toyota Highlander, driven by 77-year-old Erik Larsen of Shady Cove, was coming from the opposite direction.

As Gordon attempted to swerve back into his lane to avoid a collision, his vehicle fishtailed back into the lane of oncoming traffic and was struck broadside by the Toyota, Oregon State Police said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Max Gordon