By Bill Hudson

NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s a story of immeasurable pain but incredible perseverance. A teenager who should be enjoying time with friends is suddenly forced to fend for himself.

“It’s been pretty difficult, I’m not going to lie to you,” Sam Heras says so calmly.

The 17-year-old Heras loved playing football for his Irondale Knights. His parents loved to watch his games.

Then sadly, last year, Sam’s father died after a difficult fight with cancer. That’s when Sam went from tackling players to tackling life.

“It kind of makes me mature a bit more, so I appreciate everything that comes to me, opportunities and everything,” Heras said.

With his father gone and Sam entering his senior year at Irondale, his mother began dealing with her own medical challenges. Suddenly the bills began piling up.

While his mother was in the hospital, they lost their home. Sam had no choice but to quit the game he loved and go to work full-time.

“When he came to me he said think I have to quit football,” recalls Sam’s football coach, Ben Fuller.

Fuller remembers the difficult decisions the young man had to make, to take care of his ailing mother.

Sam told coach Fuller, “We have an electricity bill, we have this bill and that. There’s no way my mom’s going to be able to do it, there’s no money.”

Then, the days got even darker. Sam’s mother died on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

At his workplace at the Roseville Chili’s restaurant, general manager Dan Feckler recalls Sam telling him, “When I first found out about it, like I didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for me.”

That’s when his co-workers at the Roseville Chili’s decided to step in. The set up a GoFundMe account to help Sam with the bills and help him purchase a vehicle or pay for college.

“He was a kid that didn’t take his paycheck, his paycheck went to the family to help pay their bills,” Feckler said.

For now, Sam will balance both school and work, hoping someday to become a chef or nurse.

Grateful for what he has – terribly sad for what he lost.

“It’s just that whenever I graduate I won’t have my parents there to see me,” Heras said.

But he will sense amazing support – earned from the strength he’s showing all of us.

Sam says he’ll be on the sidelines this Saturday cheering on his fellow Knights in the football playoffs.

If you want to help him out, you’ll find his GoFundMe page here.

Bill Hudson

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