Northeast Tarrant

March 25, 2014

Euless school creates scholarship for player killed in wreck

Euless Junior High School is organizing a run in honor of Lolo ‘Uhatafe, who died along with two other students last summer.

The No. 3 shines in glitter paint from posters decorating the halls of Euless Junior High.

Teachers find it scrawled on schoolwork. And athletes honor No. 3 on helmets.

The number represents Lolo ‘Uhatafe, a classmate who died last summer in a car wreck along with his older brother, Polo Manukainiu, and their friend Gaius “Keio” Vaenuku.

Today, the mention of Lolo’s name on campus brings both smiles and tears.

“Oh, his personality was larger than life,” said Lamar Kirk, Euless Junior High’s football coach. “He really was one of the biggest leaders here.”

On April 5, when the campus has its second annual Stallion Fun Run 5K, some of the money raised will go toward a scholarship in his name, and some will help a teacher with medical bills.

“It’s awesome,” said Lolo’s mother, Tulima ‘Uhatafe. “That boy was an amazing son to me. He was special to me.”

Last year’s run was also organized to help people in the school community. The proceeds went to a student and a coach’s wife who were battling cancer, said Jennifer Beasley, an athletic coordinator who is organizing the event.

“The whole thing is based on family and based on our Stallion family here and what we can do as a community and to teach our students to be a part of the community,” she said.

Geography teacher Jacob Reynolds, his wife, Christian, and their twin sons will be recipients this year. A few months after the accident, they had premature twins who weighed less than 3 pounds.

The tiny brothers were in neonatal intensive care for about eight weeks, and the bills totaled almost $1 million, Jacob Reynolds said. After insurance kicked in, the family still had to pay thousands of dollars in deductibles.

Fun run bracelets bear the names of the twins, as well as Lolo’s name.

“We feel honored just to be in the same category,” Jacob Reynolds said. “We love our Euless family.”

About 450 people signed up to run last year, and about $10,000 was raised, she said. Organizers hope to raise that much or more this year. Some of Lolo’s siblings and his father, Salesi ‘Uhatafe, are expected to participate.

Lolo looked up to his older brother, Manukainiu, who played for Trinity High School and Texas A&M University. At the time of the accident, Manukainiu was a defensive lineman at A&M and stood about 6 feet 9 inches, Tulima ‘Uhatafe said.

With tears welling in her eyes, Tulima ‘Uhatafe said that Manukainiu was known as a gentle giant but that Lolo was big too.

“They call him a small giant,” she said.

Kirk said Lolo was No. 3 in the eighth grade. Lolo sent Kirk a message during the summer to ask whether he could have the number again. Kirk agreed.

After Lolo’s death, coaches created a helmet decal that alludes to the Tongan national flag and Lolo’s cultural background. The decal, which also sports the No. 3, was worn by every football player in grades seven, eight and nine during football games last season.

Lolo would have been in the ninth grade and was going be the starting quarterback and a captain.

“That was his biggest dream,” Kirk said. “I think that was his NFL — playing at Trinity High School.”

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