School friends, coaches, teammates and football fans greeted PJ Kuzmitski with open arms and open hearts last Friday at Badger Stadium, where the Badgers hosted Amador High of Sutter Creek in the school’s Homecoming game.
On Sept. 27, Kuzmitski, a freshman at Yosemite High and member of the JV football team, suffered a catastrophic injury during practice, which resulted in the amputation of his right leg below the knee. He was released from Valley Children’s Hospital on Oct. 23
PJ and his father Jake stopped by the Mountain Muscle’s 2nd Annual Homecoming Tailgate Party held at The Landing to benefit the Kuzmitski family, before going to Badger Stadium for the games. The night before he had attended the team dinner.
PJ was the Honorary Captain of the JV team for the night, the last game of the season for the JV team since this week’s opponent Sierra only has a varsity team. PJ was also at mid-field for the coin toss for the JV and varsity games.
“The past month has been a life-changer,” PJ said wearing his No. 22 jersey while standing on the sidelines watching the JV team go through warmups before the game. “(Being out here) feels great ... like I’m finally getting back to normal, getting more into my life and getting healed from this injury. I would have never expected this to happen to me and I know I’m going to get through it.”
In addition to football, PJ has been active in Yosemite FFA, and is an avid wrestler, coming to YHS from the Yosemite Badger Youth Wrestling Club, coached by Jeff Guynn and was looking forward to his first season wrestling for Yosemite High.
“Everything was wonderful tonight,” Jake said of his son’s return to Badger Stadium. “Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging to PJ and I. He clearly wants to wrestle again, and maybe play football. He’s a very determined kid, and I know he’ll work hard for whatever he wants.”
When asked about the support he is receiving from Yosemite High and the community, PJ said it means the world to him.
“I haven’t been in football all that long, but wrestling wise, with Jeff Guynn and all he’s done for me, it’s been amazing,” PJ said.
Guynn has visited with PJ almost everyday since the injury and has served as a spokesman for the family during this emotional ordeal. He will assist with coaching the YHS wrestling team this season.
“Being with PJ on the sidelines of the game last Friday night was like we never missed a beat - it was just all the other times we have spent together,” Guynn said. “He is such an amazing young man, and he is excited about getting back in the wrestling room. And although he probably won’t wrestle this year, he has committed to working out with the team at all the practices. With him on the sidelines, he is still a member of the YHS wrestling team, and everyone is looking forward to having him around.”
“PJ has immediate needs now that he has returned home,” said Yosemite Football Boosters Treasurer Anita Johnson. “Our fundraising campaign will ensure that PJ has everything he needs to assimilate back into school and sports with the smoothest transition possible. The Yosemite Football Boosters is reaching out to our generous community, sports teams, and friends to assist PJ financially.”
Johnson noted that the Mountain Area has rallied to raise funds for PJ’s long term medical needs, specifically a high tech prosthetic which will allow PJ to continue with his sports and FFA activities.
“We are in contact with two non-profit organizations that we believe are going to be instrumental to PJ: The Challenged Athlete Foundation (www.challendgedathletes.org) and Wiggle Your Toes (www.wiggleyourtoes.org),” Johnson said.
Two ways to donate:
☆ Chase Bank Account - Yosemite Football Boosters – PJ Kuzmitski.
☆ Online donations through www.youcaring.com/pjkuzmitski-971313.
Any individual or organization that would like to assist with fundraising are asked to contact Yosemite Football Boosters - Anne Guynn, (559)-760-8244, or Anita Johnson, (559) 760-6848.
PJ will continue his outpatient rehabilitation at Valley Children’s Hospital, with another surgery scheduled for Nov. 28.
He hopes to return to his classes at Yosemite High after the Christmas break.