A world thirsting for a feel-good story was served a frosty glass of compassion by Mario Hoefer, a teenager from Iowa who didn’t hydrate properly.
Mario learned his lesson and shared it with his opponent − and then the world − in early September, when he and his teammates at Charles City High faced nearby New Hampton in a Friday night football game.
“It was really foggy, really hot,” Mario said. “I got a serious sweat on during warmups. It was like sitting in a sauna. I thought I was doing a good job drinking water.”
Hmmm, not so much. Mario cramped up three times in the game. He walked off a couple but needed assistance from his teammates when he cramped up near the New Hampton sideline. “My teammates were there to take care of me, so that was all good,” he said.
He soldiered on as Charles City protected a slim lead and New Hampton attempted a late comeback. Playing safety, Mario saw his teammates across the field break up a crucial pass intended for New Hampton’s Carter Steinlage. “So, I’m crossing all the way over to the other side of the field to high five my teammates.” But Mario noticed that Carter remained on the ground, “screaming in pain,” he said.
Rather than high five his teammates, Mario stopped to check on his opponent. He recognized Carter; the two had faced each other since seventh grade in basketball as well as football.
“He came over and started stretching me out right away,” Carter told a local TV station, grateful for the immediate support.
Mario said his reaction was instinctive: “I had cramped up, I knew how painful it was. I couldn’t just let him wait for the trainer on the other side of the field. And I don’t want to compete against an opponent who isn’t at his best. That’s not fair.”
A trainer from New Hampton arrived quickly to treat Carter and relieve Mario − who never got around to that high five − but not before one of the spectators captured the moment with her camera phone and shared it on social media.
“I didn’t think anything big of it at the time,” Mario said, acknowledging that he was more excited about the 14-8 victory, in which he coincidentally scored the game-winning touchdown. “Even though a lot of people were telling me ‘thank you’ and ‘good job’ for helping him, it was nothing.”
But then the calls came from local television stations and national media, such as “Good Morning America” and “Today.” The series of media interviews reinforced the bond between Mario and Carter, who are looking forward to competing again soon in basketball. They continue to message each other almost daily, “going back and forth about how crazy it’s been.”
“I didn’t get it at first, but then I started to read comments on social media, about how it made people feel better, and it made a lot of sense,” Mario said. “There’s a lot of bad in the world, so when somebody sees something good, it catches their attention.”
The funny thing about good deeds is that they leave everyone thirsty for more. But as long as there are compassionate and selfless people like Mario, the well won’t run dry.