The act is small. But the message is big.
A glimpse at the helmets of the Bellevue football team reveals a small pink heart on the backside. A heart that reads a simple four-word message that has become a rallying cry for the entire Wolverines football program.
That message reads “Bellevue battles for Natalie.”
Natalie is Natalie Razore, the infant daughter of Joe and Michelle Razore. Joe, a former Bellevue assistant coach, is the oldest of four Razore brothers to have passed through the Wolverines program. The other three – Matt, Jeff and Danny – still coach with the program today.
Now the family that has given so much to Bellevue is on the receiving side of things.
Natalie, the youngest of Joe and Michelle Razore’s three children, was admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital two weeks after she was born on Sept. 24. Now on day 46, Natalie has been in the fight of her young life with pertussis – also known as whooping cough, a highly contagious bacterial disease that can cause violent, uncontrollable coughing.
“She’s been making some great progress, but she’s still got a long road ahead of her,” Joe Razore said Monday. “She’s a tough little girl, a lot tougher than me.”
Just two weeks after she was born, Natalie started to show symptoms of a cold. The Razore’s brought her to their pediatrician, who immediately had her taken to the emergency room at Children’s – where’s she’s been ever since.
The past 46 days have consisted of constant time at the hospital for the Razore’s – either Joe or Michelle has been with Natalie at all times.
Natalie’s struggle gave inspiration to some Bellevue parents like Michelle Van Ackeren, mother of senior quarterback Kendrick Van Ackeren.
“Joe Razore gives so much to the program, and his family gives so much to all the boys,” she said. “This was an opportunity for the boys to give back and show that they are very supportive to him.”
Van Ackeren used a connection to print up the pink heart stickers that each player has now adorned on the back of their helmet. They also made bracelets with the same “Bellevue battle for Natalie” message adorned on them.
“She’s in our hearts right now,” Van Ackeren said. “We’re praying for her every day and thinking about her. We wanted something to represent how we’re battling for her.”
The players have fully embraced it. The team has worn the stickers for their last two games – state playoff wins over Timberline (58-14) and Liberty (35-0).
“The Razore’s are a big part of the football family here,” said senior defensive back Michael Foreman, who intercepted two passes in Bellevue’s win over Liberty. “We just want to support them as best as we can.”
“It’s a big deal for us,” added Kendrick Van Ackeren. “The Razore’s have been a big part of the program for years. I feel like I’m a part of the Razore family because they’ve done so much for me and I want to support them. We are really hoping for the best.”
The act hasn’t gone unnoticed, said Danny Razore, the youngest Razore brother, a defensive backs coach for the Wolverines.
“It really is amazing,” he said. “The private family we are, when it comes to internal matters like that, we didn’t know about the stickers or bracelets. It just shows the difference between our program and other programs.
“People want to pinpoint and make up fallacies about the success that Bellevue has, and this is why, the family atmosphere,” he added. “We really truly rally around everybody.”
Joe Razore said the support has helped the family through this tough period while Natalie fights for her life.
“We’re lucky and blessed to have so much support from our family members and the people in the community like Bellevue football,” he said. “I get random emails from people who I’ve never met before…Natalie’s affected a lot of people having never met them.”
Michelle Van Ackeren said she’s requested that everyone keep wearing the heart. Joe Razore says he hopes that day will be Christmas, but if not, hopefully by New Year’s Day. He’s also trying to get the word out to as many people as possible to get their vaccinations – as Natalie was infected by someone who had not had their vaccines.
“It’s been a long battle,” Razore said. “But she’s a tough little girl.”
For now, Joe said, the goal each day is for Natalie to have a stable day and for her body to heal itself. Her lungs, he said, were damaged from the pertussis and what she needs to repair them now is simply time.
“This show of support has meant a lot to my family,” Razore said. “Bellevue football is something that we believe in and to me, this just reiterates how Butch Goncharoff and his staff really teach this kids. The victories on the field are a result of how these guys live, play and practice.
“It’s been very comforting to us to know how many people care for a little girl they’ve never met before.”