DEARBORN, Mo. — The line stretched all the way to the doors well before the posted start time.
Hundreds turned out to the North Platte High School on Saturday, June 10 for a fundraiser with proceeds benefiting the family of deceased West Platte football coach Nate Danneman, killed this past April in a tragic multi-vehicle crash. Danneman, 37, spent 15 years coaching high school athletics, and people showed up from all over for the BBQ dinner and auction to show support.
Organizers estimated that more than $20,000 was raised on the evening.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Shannan Eagen, who helped organize the event. “We were shooting, hoping for 500, and we thought if we sell out that’s a good problem to have, but we just didn’t know what to expect.”
A native of St. Louis and a graduate of Rockwood Summit High School, Danneman came to West Platte as head football coach after stints as an assistant with Marshall and Richmond and then two years as a head coach at Drexel, going 17-4 with the Bobcats.
Danneman compiled a 20-28 record at West Platte, leading the Bluejays to Class 1 District 7 titles and quarterfinal appearances in 2013 and 2015 — both times going into a matchup as an underdog against highly ranked Hamilton. In both quarterfinal losses, West Platte came up just short of pulling a monumental upset.
The depth of Danneman’s impact showed in the wake of his untimely death with the previous communities he served showing up to pay respects and show support for the Weston, Mo. community.
North Platte football coach Josh Rodriguez played with Danneman at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. before the two started a rivalry at their respective KCI Conference schools the past two seasons. Eagen, Jen Lawson and Kathi Vandal of West Platte and Tasha Rodriguez and Stephanie Snook of North Platte worked on Josh Rodriguez’s idea to bring the two communities together for the fundraiser.
While Danneman coached the past four years at West Platte, he lived in Camden Point, Mo. — part of the North Platte School District. The Rodriguez family lived just a short distance from the Dannemans, and they stayed close friends.
“It goes to show you the type of man (Nate) was,” said Jake Danneman, Nate’s twin brother. “North Platte, West Platte, it’s all come together, and the one thing that’s brought everybody together is football. (Rodriguez) wanted to do something, and look at this. This is unbelievable.
“Nate was a great man, and the number of lives he touched is unbelievable. I look up to him still.”
Football players from West Platte and North Platte showed up to the benefit dinner in uniform and worked together to help support the effort.
Attendees trickled through the serving line and enjoyed the food despite some elevated temperatures in the junior high gymnasium. A video tribute to Nate Danneman’s life played on a projector screen on a stage surrounded by auction items.
The event offered a unique opportunity for North Platte players to reach out and support their rivals on the field but friends off of it.
“We knew what coach Danneman meant to the community,” North Platte senior Austin Snook said. “We really see the players and the family, they all loved him. This was a little something we could do to give back to them. We’ve got our rivalry, but we’re all one community.
“There’s not much difference. We care for each other, and it’s just the right thing to do.”
Many people were hurting in wake of a four-vehicle accident along I-29 that claimed Danneman’s life on the evening of Wednesday, April 19. He was just 37 years old. The fatal crash occurred about one mile south of Camden Point, Mo. on Interstate 29, shutting down both southbound lanes and one northbound lane just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.
According to investigators, a semi apparently traveled out of the northbound lanes of I-29 and struck three vehicles before overturning. Danneman was driving a Ford Focus with his 4-year-old daughter as a passenger.
Danneman was identified as the victim in the early morning hours Thursday. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and three others suffered minor injuries in the crash, including Danneman’s daughter.
An emotional week of tributes and services followed, and the outreach for Tabitha Danneman and the couple’s two young daughters has not stopped since. The fundraiser dinner and auction continued that trend with organizers again amazed at the breadth of support from all over the region.
“It’s amazing to see the people that you wouldn’t think of,” Eagen said. “So many people stepped up to help to give a donation or an auction item. Nobody asked. It just shows how many people he touched, and how big this became. People from all these places were willing to come and do this, and it’s just overwhelming.”