This year has been trying for most, but for the Helms family of Fernandina Beach, 2020 has been heartbreaking.
Joey and Sabrina Helms lost their 17-year-old son this year. Collin was a 17-year-old junior at Fernandina Beach High School when the pandemic started.
“We were on lock down back in mid-March,” Joey Helms said.
Collin was with his friends, riding his skateboard near Sunrise Drive.
“For whatever reason, Collin grabbed onto the back of his truck,” Joey Helms said. “They proceeded to go down that hill going toward Sunset Park. That’s where they lost control. Collin fell, and he had a really bad head injury.”
Collin spent weeks at UF Health Shands Hospital before coming home to Hospice care in his final week.
“At first, we really felt like we wanted to bring awareness to kids on skateboards wearing helmets,” Joey Helms said. “But, there’s a lot of that out there already. If we were going to do something, we wanted it to benefit this community because one of the things we were most proud about Collin was his sense of school pride and community awareness.
“His school pride was there. It didn’t matter if he was going to a volleyball match or a track meet, he was the kid with his shirt off and painted in yellow and blue. He was always there supporting his school, no matter what. Any athletic activity he was there doing it.”
Collin, a pitcher and infielder for the Pirate baseball team, played basketball two seasons at FBHS.
“But, those two sports overlapped so it was hard for him to do both,” Joey Helms said. “Baseball was his main thing.”
Joey Helms coached his son through Babe Ruth.
“We’ve always been really active in any fundraising efforts for Babe Ruth baseball or high school baseball,” Joey Helms said. “We’ve always been proud that we’ve been active in helping with that. Collin always enjoyed that. It made sense to us that we were going to do something that was going to help the kids he was graduating with and the kids that are younger who are going to be coming up in the next few years. The kids that always played baseball with Collin.
“It made sense to help out our baseball community on the island. It really is a tight-knit community of all the baseball kids. That’s something we all felt really good about. It would be appropriate and proper and help with Collin’s legacy. We want to make sure Collin is remembered in the proper way each year. That’s the purpose of the golf tournament. We’re hoping each year we can remember how much Collin was an impact on the community.”
Jumping back in wasn’t easy for the Helmses.
“As hard as it is for us to do, it’s something we enjoy doing,” Joey Helms said. “There are just so many good families out there that are intertwined with the baseball community here in Fernandina Beach. That’s why we want to help. Hopefully we can do something that is lasting, and every year give back to the high school boys.”
Collin would have been a senior this fall.
“He wanted to travel to the world and see different things,” Sabrina Helms said.
“He really enjoyed photography a lot,” Joey Helms said. “We bought him a nice Cannon Rebel. He was always taking pictures. He was 17 years old and he had 10 different directions. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. He had a girlfriend, and he was in love. You know how 17-year-olds are.”
As hard as the tragedy was on Collin’s parents, it’s been just as trying on Liam, Collin’s 10-year-old brother.
“He has done tremendously well,” Sabrina Helms said. “We are so proud of him. It’s something a 10-year-old should never have to do, watch your brother die.”
“He’s very strong, and he’s very smart for 10,” Joey Helms said. “We’d be lying if we said he’s OK.”
“He’ll never be OK,” Sabrina Helms said.
“There is no OK with this,” Joey Helms said. “But, we have a great structure around us with the community and close friends, a lot of which are from the baseball community. Everyone has been so supportive of us, putting their arms around us. It has helped more than anything.”
When the Helmses decided to organize a golf tournament in Collin’s name to benefit the FBHS baseball team, they turned to Kevin and Michelle Seder, owners of the Sandbar and Kitchen, where Joey Helms is a manager.
“Michelle has been instrumental in this whole thing,” Joey Helms said. “She has been absolutely amazing.”
“An angel since Collin got hurt,” Sabrina Helms added.
“She and Kevin have done more than anyone should ever do,” Joeh Helms said. “They have a firm grasp on running a good, sustainable golf tournament. She took the reigns. There are a hundred things you don’t think of, but she’s been all over it. This couldn’t have happened without her.”
The Seders collaborated with Tom Camera, vice president of Fernandina Beach Babe Ruth.
“I truly appreciate all the support that the community has given this golf tournament, and we look forward to a successful tournament,” Camer said.
A charity golf tournament to benefit the Collin Helms Memorial Scholarship Fund will be held Monday at the Amelia River Golf Club. Even with more than 20 teams and 40 sponsors, there is still room.
“I would love for two boys to be able to get a scholarship,” Sabrina Helms said.
Auction items are also still welcome. A President’s Cup flag signed by the entire team, a watch from Scott & Sons and rounds of golf for four at area courses are just some of the items that will be up for auction.
“We couldn’t believe what people were sending for auction items,” Joey Helms said. “We can’t believe how much people have reached out.”
“It brought tears to our eyes,” Sabrina Helms said.
“It seems like it’s going to shape up to be a really nice event,” Joey Helms said. “That’s our ultimate goal, to make sure this thing does well enough the first year that it will be bigger and better. We hope it will be a success. We can look back and say, ‘Let’s do this again next year.’”
Practices start at 10 a.m. Monday, and the shotgun start is at 11 a.m. Format is a four-person scramble, and the cost is $125 per person or $400 per team.
For registration or information, contact Michelle Seder at Michelleseder@gmail.com.
Joey Helms plans to play Monday to honor his son.
“He had the brightest future,” Joey Helms said. “He could have done anything he wanted to. We knew he was going to go see the world and do great things.
“He had his stuff together. He was ready to go live his life.”