Everyone is an Eskymo: Unspeakable tragedy leads to widespread community support in Upper Peninsula

Donations have come pouring in after couple died in car accident

Stock image. Dio Hasbi Saniskoro (Pexels)

Gerald and Tara Weaver were on their way to see their son play basketball when tragedy struck.

The parents of a player on the Escanaba High School basketball team, the Weavers on Jan. 27 were headed to Sault Ste. Marie, which is roughly three hours northeast of Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Since there aren’t as many big towns and high schools in the Upper Peninsula as in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, longer drives to games for teams and their parents are common.

The Weavers were traveling along US-2, a two-lane highway, in a white Toyota SUV when the vehicle was struck head-on by a semi-truck who was heading in the other direction, but lost control and crossed the center of the road.

The Weavers were pronounced dead on the scene.

News of the tragedy didn’t reach officials from either school who were in Sault Ste. Marie until the game had already started, so the game was stopped at halftime.

Communities rally around the family

The Weavers had three kids -- Noah, Lukas and Sophia.

Noah graduated from Escanaba High School (the nickname of the school is the Eskymos) in 2020, Lukas is a current senior who plays on the basketball team and Sophia is a current sophomore.

Since the tragedy, numerous communities and schools across the Upper Peninsula have rallied to raise money and donate to a GoFundMe account that has been set up for the family, according to an article by Radio Results Network.

At a boys basketball game between Bark River-Harris and Munising, there was a bake sale, a 50/50 raffle and a photo booth that helped raise more than $7,000 following a matching donation by employees of a local credit union.

“We just want to show our support for the Eskymos,” Bark River-Harris athletic director Jeanne Lippens told Radio Results Network. “And for our family, too. I drove through many, many snowstorms and bad roads. It’s just heartbreaking. The support in the community has been wonderful, and I think that’s what sports are all about.”

The teams also joined hands in a circle and had a moment of silence on the court before the game started.

A basketball game between Rapid River and North Dickinson raised close to $5,000 through donations taken at the door, 50/50 proceeds and concession stand sales.

During a girls basketball game between Gladstone and Negaunee, students went into the stands for a “miracle minute,” where they collected donations. Combined with a 50/50 raffle, more than $4,000 was raised for the family.

The band at Gladstone also played the Escanaba fight song during the game.

Fundraisers for the family were also held at high school sporting events in St. Ignace, Powers and Sault Ste. Marie.

Sons speak out

Despite their overwhelming grief, both Noah and Lukas Weaver have come out publicly expressing their gratitude for all the support.

In a lengthy Facebook post that can be read by clicking or tapping here, Noah Weaver paid tribute to his parents and thanked the community, all while vowing to carry on the legacy of his parents.

In part, Noah Weaver wrote: “This isn’t to be looked at as a tragedy. This is a new beginning. A new beginning of the legacy my parents left behind, and I refuse to let it be in vain. So again, I ask all of you to carry on this kindness you have shown to my family and carry it into all other aspects of your life.”

Lukas Weaver played in his team’s basketball game on Monday against Marinette, where he scored a career-high 14 points.

He did an interview with Jack Hall of Radio Results Network on Twitter afterward.

In part, Lukas Weaver said, “It’s been amazing. It hasn’t just been the Escanaba community. It’s been all over the UP and Wisconsin. Pretty much everywhere and it’s been amazing.”

As of Thursday morning, the GoFundMe for the family had raised nearly $225,000.

The funeral for Gerald and Tara Weaver will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Anne’s Church in Escanaba, and it will be livestreamed on the church’s Facebook page for community members who can’t attend.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.