COLUMBIA, S.C. — When Mike Gillespie, the sports director for an ABC television affiliate in Columbia, S.C., and his girlfriend, Caroline, needed about $5,000 to cover the expenses for their dog, Wilbur, for an emergency surgery, they created a GoFundMe account.
They were still $3,000 short Tuesday morning when Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst, a Bolles School product, decided to pick up the remainder of the tab.
Gillespie, overwhelmed by the gesture, thanked Hurst on Twitter and the story quickly went viral. Hurst’s father, Jerry, said his son had no intention of generating publicity.
“Hayden told me, ‘I just wanted to help the guy out, I didn’t know it was going to get all this crazy.’ ” Jerry told the Times-Union. “Hayden knew what the guy was going through and just wanted to help. He didn’t expect so much reaction.”
Gillespie’s adopted, 8-year-old Golden Irish dog was taken to a veterinarian and learned Wilbur had blockage in his intestines. Hurst, who owns two female border collies, had to take 1-year-old Josie for the same surgery last year in Baltimore after she consumed a piece of vinyl off a carpet runner.
Hurst, familiar with the costs of the operation, wanted to assist Gillespie, who he knew from the time he covered South Carolina’s football team while playing for the Gamecocks.
Caroline texted Gillespie when she saw Hurst donated $3,000 to pay the remaining costs after the GoFundMe account had already brought in about $1,500.
“I honestly couldn’t believe it,” Gillespie told Falcons.com. “Just, in an instant, to drop $3,000. I don’t care who you are, you could have all of the money in the world, but $3,000, just to donate in five seconds, that is a lot of money. We were just so taken aback by the gesture.”
On his Twitter account, Gillespie wrote: “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for us, @haydenhurst. I have no idea how to repay you or what we did to deserve this, but we’re so thankful . . . especially Wilbur.”
Hurst replied on Twitter: “No need. I know someone out there would do the same for me and my pups. God bless Mike!”
It’s not the first time Hurst has come to somebody’s financial rescue. Last year, while playing for the Baltimore Ravens, he found out from an official of the club hockey team at South Carolina that they didn’t have enough money for a second set of jerseys. Hurst donated $4,000 for the team to obtain the apparel.
This time, the bonding situation was different. Hurst’s whole family feels a special connection with dogs as his older sister, Kylie, is a veterinarian in Atlanta. Hurst, a 2018 first-round draft pick of the Ravens, was traded to Atlanta in March. He had three catches for 38 yards in his debut with the Falcons, a 38-25 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
"There's so much going on in our world right now," Gillespie said. "It's obviously been a tough year. . . . it was just very refreshing. It was very refreshing to see the goodness of humanity. I didn't think there could be something on this planet that was as sweet as Wilbur, and Hayden just totally proved me wrong."