Former U of M athlete uses tragedy to inspire local students

Kent County

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — You may remember former University of Michigan basketball student manager Austin Hatch, the lone survivor of two separate plane crashes that killed many of his family members.

Nine years after the second crash, Hatch has graduated college, gotten married and started telling his story across the country as a motivational speaker. South Christian High School recently invited him to speak, hoping his experiences will help strengthen students’ faith.

South Christian chaplain and Bible teacher Arianna Tolsma said having Hatch speak “kind of landed in my lap.”

“A grandparent of a student here called me and said, ‘I’ve got this really awesome connection. I think it would be really cool to have the students hear his story.’ And I said, ‘OK, great! Who is it?’ He said Austin Hatch, and I said, ‘Oh my goodness, OK, yes please!’” Tolsma recalled. “Most of us haven’t experienced this as greatly as Austin has, but the fact that we can all identify with losing something, grief, overcoming struggles.”

Hatch has been called a walking miracle. He takes his faith seriously, evident in the way he carries himself after the tragedies.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial. Because having withstood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those that love him. So it’s like, that’s it right there,” Hatch said. “We can overcome anything we put our minds to if we focus on our response to the adversity.”

Hatch said he enjoys speaking with high school students because his personal tragedies happened before he was 17.

“I just try to be relatable, ’cause obviously the things I went through are pretty tragic and traumatic and maybe those are a little more severe than what the kids in the audience will go through,” Hatch said. “I hope and pray no one in the room has to go through anything like what I did.”

Hatch lost his brother, his sister, mother, father and stepmother. On top of that, for a time, he couldn’t walk, talk or play basketball.

“I always told myself, give yourself something to fight for. If I keep my head down and keep working, I’ll overcome this. It’s not going to be easy, right now I’m in the trenches, but I’m coming up on the other side, and once I get started … I’m going to finish the job and overcome,” Hatch said. “I look at that, as well my life experiences. I try to learn things from it and use to help others.”

South Christian and other schools hope Hatch’s glass-half-full attitude will pour over into their students. 

“He came from one of the most unimaginable situations and is still here today having accomplished so much,” Tolsma said. “I think it’s just empowering the students to hear how this one person has gone through so much and he’s come out and not only has he survived, but he’s thrived and they can, too.”

Surviving and thriving, it’s how Hatch makes sense of it all today. 

“I feel blessed to be in a position to hopefully share a message that provides a lot of value and perspective,” Hatch said. “It’s not going to be easy, right? It’s not going to be easy. But it’s going to be worth it, as it says in the word.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links