Harry Haferkamp was back at the gymnasium at Nold Hall at Farmingdale State last night. Dressed in a long-sleeved, striped shirt, he sat comfortably next to his son Carl in the third row of bleachers and followed the action.
The bespectacled North Babylon resident, 78, surrounded by family and friends, was enjoying the Suffolk Class AA girls basketball championship game. And that itself is a great story.
This was more than stars Bria Hartley of North Babylon and Kristen Doherty of Sachem East. This was so much more than a championship game. This was about compassion.
This was about compassion for each other and passion for high school sports.
Haferkamp was in attendance because people care about each other. And he was here because he cares so much about high school sports. And therein lies the beauty of this tale.
It was only Wednesday night that Haferkamp, sitting among the throng of more than 4,000 spectators, collapsed in the waning moments of the Suffolk Class AA boys basketball final and was rushed by volunteers from the East Farmingdale Fire Department to New Island Hospital in Bethpage. Quick emergency response and the work of a savvy trainer, Peter White, aided in Haferkamp's well-being.
"I'm here because people care," Haferkamp said. "My doctor told me I took the wrong medication and that, combined with the heat, caused me to pass out. All of my tests came back OK."
As he rested in a hospital bed early Thursday in the emergency room at New Island Hospital, he was greeted by an unlikely visitor.
"I looked up and this man asked, 'How do you feel?' " Haferkamp said with a smile. "And I said, 'Who are you?' And he said, 'I'm the Longwood coach, Dennis Terry, and I came by to see how you were doing.' "
Haferkamp said Terry then sat beside his bed, held his hand and began to pray.
"He prayed for me," Haferkamp said. "I was in shock. That man made me feel great - it was such a boost."
Terry left Haferkamp with a Longwood basketball T-shirt - and in good spirits when he left New Island. Haferkamp clutched the shirt and could be seen clapping and cheering for his hometown Bulldogs among the 2,300 fans.
Haferkamp and the second- largest crowd in Long Island girls basketball history were treated to an exciting game as Sachem East earned a 72-69 win over North Babylon. His favorite player, Bria Hartley, scored 51 points for the Bulldogs, a Long Island playoff record.
"I didn't want to miss this game for the world," Haferkamp said. "And I owe it to Peter White and all the other emergency personnel that helped me."
Carl Haferkamp said his father is an avid high school sports fan.
"We followed North Babylon football to the championship and we were following basketball to the championship," Carl said. "This is our community. Dad was released from the hospital at 3 p.m. and I took him home. And he couldn't wait to get here and see the game."
Harry Haferkamp is no ordinary fan. Considering where he was Wednesday night and how he looked last night - wow.
"I saw him walk in and this incredible feeling of love just came over me," said White, the official athletic trainer for Section XI athletics. "It was great to see him. And he looked good."
Before tipoff, Haferkamp thanked White and found his seat. Game on.