By Nate Thompson
Little did he know, those traits would be needed during a scary, life-changing incident this summer that could have ended much worse.
Lambers and his two sons were driving from Muskegon to the Ludington Gus Macker basketball tournament on June 17, when tragedy struck in a blink of an eye.
Lambers described it as a road rage incident involving a fellow motorist that fled the scene. The other car struck Lambers’ vehicle, causing it to flip three times. His youngest son, AJ, 12, was ejected from the vehicle, Lambers said, while he was initially pinned in the car and had to have his adopted son, J.J., 14, pull him from the car that was turned into a twisted and dented heap of metal.
Despite suffering broken bones in his back, hip and neck, Lambers said AJ was his “miracle baby,” in an accident that most wouldn’t have survived.
“He was ejected because our convertible top flew off,” Lambers said. “They found him in the only patch of grass along the side of the road, because we actually flipped up the side of a hill. Everywhere else along that stretch of the highway, there was water or trees. And the way he landed, (the paramedics) said that’s the only way he could have landed and survived that type of thing.”
Lambers paused and let out a deep breath, obviously still shaken by the accident now three months later.
“Literally, someone was looking out for us up above,” he said. “With AJ, you can’t help but think that angels grabbed him in the air and laid him down.”
Lambers, 46, who coaches a travel basketball team in Grand Rapids called North Coast Premier and also hopes to be an assistant junior varsity coach for Muskegon High School this winter, broke his right arm during the crash and smashed all of his fingers, which caused nerve damage in his hand.
“They initially talked about amputation (of my hand), but some of the nerves were still working and I was able to move some of my fingers. So doctors decided to keep everything and it means another year of rehab to try to get things back to normal. I’m almost 47, so I’m not healing as fast I once did.”
AJ eventually had to have surgery on his femur and hip and had to wear a neck brace for two months, Lambers said.
“The strength he’s shown, he’s led our family and he’s the youngest,” Lambers said. “He was just cleared for sports yesterday, but he’s in rehab until basketball season at Norton Rehab Center. AJ really loves basketball. He’s ranked in the nation as one of the best in his age group. His goal is to be back for his seventh-grade season at Mona Shores.”
Miraculously, JJ, was unhurt during the crash, and after accompanying his father and brother to the hospital, he received Lambers’ blessing to continue on to Ludington.
“He went up there and him and his team went all the way to the championship game,” Lambers said. “I’m really proud of him.”
JJ is a team captain on the Muskegon High School freshman football team as well.
Lambers, who works full-time as a realtor at Home Realty in Grand Haven, said he’s been blown away by the community support his family has received following the accident. A GoFundMe page was set up to help pay medical bills and other expenses, but there was so much more, Lambers said.
“Just the prayers and people showing support from all over,” Lambers said. “We had food brought to us for a month. People just came through. It was thousands of people. I’ll forever be humble because of that generosity.
“I’ve found that we’re all much more spiritual than we were,” he added. “Most people don’t walk away from something like that.”
The support Lambers and his sons received is a pay-it-back type of situation for the work Lambers has put in trying to shape at-risk teens. Local Sports Journal previously featured Lambers in 2017, when he discussed the scholarship he had established for at-risk teens at local high schools, including Muskegon High School. He also organized a basketball team, comprised of promising teens from Wyoming High School who needed guidance in their lives. The team was organized around basketball, but Lambers and fellow coaches also helped the kids succeed in school, find jobs in the summer and deal with personal challenges. Both the RP Scholars basketball team and the RP Scholarship Fund were named in memory of Lambers’ former teacher, coach and mentor at Wyoming Park High School, Richard Pullen, who passed away from colon cancer in 2015. Pullen was instrumental in transforming Lambers when he was a troubled teen himself.