Small Philadelphia shows 'huge heart'

Josh Rolen, left, said the community’s support for his, from left, wife Ashley, sons Parker, 16, and Paxton, 3, and daughter Shaella, 12, has been ‘unreal.’

A Philadelphia family involved in a horrific wreck last week on Interstate 75 is getting help from their small, tight-knit community.

Josh Rolen received a stunning telephone call June 8. His wife Ashley Rolen, 35, sons Paxton Rolen, 3, and Parker Rolen, 16, and daughter Shaella Rolen, 12, were seriously injured in a three-car wreck on the interstate.

“It’s unreal,” Rolen said. “You see it on TV. You watch the news. You read it in the paper. Such-and-such family had a major car wreck. You never think about it being you. It’s just hurt in the pit of your stomach. Your heart hits the floor. When you get the call and they tell you it’s bad and just to get there. You’re having to hope that it’s OK when you get there.”

The Rolens were traveling north when traffic unexpectedly slowed and their vehicle was hit from behind by a tractor-trailer and then collided with a minivan in front. The Rolens and the two occupants of the van all sustained serious injuries.

Multiple LifeStar units responded to the scene and the six injured individuals were transported to area hospitals for treatment.

Parker and Paxton are now at home, and Shaella is “making leaps and bounds” every day. Ashley is responsive and awake but sore and recovering. Josh said everyone gets better as the days pass, and full recoveries will take time.

All three children have or will attend Philadelphia Elementary School, with Shaella a current student. Parker goes to Loudon High School.

When Marvin Feezell, PES principal, heard about the Rolens and their wreck, he sent out an email to school faculty and staff.

“We got notification later that afternoon that everyone was stable and we knew that dad, Josh, would be having to stay up at the hospital for a while,” Feezell said. “And having done that myself a few times in my life, I know how hard that is because you have to miss work, you have expenses and things like that, so I just sent out an email to our faculty.”

Feezell said he always lets school employees know when there’s something going on with a student. He wrote in the email that contributions to the Rolen family could be dropped off at the school. Some teachers shared on social media.

“People just started sharing this idea of, ‘Hey, we’re just trying to help this family.’ It really wasn’t like a school-initiated fundraiser,” Feezell said. “Just the entire community, there were people everywhere that said, ‘We want to help. We don’t know how.’ Philadelphia School just agreed to be the coordinator. We became the drop-off point, and we’re just giving the family any money that’s brought to us. … There’s an account set up at Foothills Credit Union and people can drop off in Loudon, Lenoir City or Sweetwater. I don’t know how much money has been dropped off directly to the credit union to the account that’s in their name there.”

As of Monday, $6,065 had been collected at the school, which doesn’t include money at the credit union. Some teachers attached Venmo accounts to social media posts.

“It’s just spread through technology and social media,” Feezell said. “It’s really been an organic … coming together of people for a family that had a very bad thing happen. … This is a small community with a huge heart. People here, they’re just good, hard-working people who care about their neighbors, and I’ve seen this time and again in the years I’ve been here at Philadelphia. If someone has a real need, this community jut steps up. We don’t have to beat a drum. We don’t have to beg people. We just say, ‘Hey, there’s a need out in the community,’ and they step up and take care of it. It’s just what Philadelphia’s about.”

Rolen has “no words” to describe the outpouring of support.

“Everybody’s wanting to do something,” he said. “Everybody’s asking if we’re OK. Everybody’s asking about the kids. There are no words. From Lenoir City to Sweetwater, that whole community right there, especially Philadelphia School, is just unreal for us. They have gone above and beyond and were never asked. They just felt in their heart to do it on their own.”