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Volunteer’s ‘motherly instinct’ kicked in when father of football player had heart attack

This week ABC-7 told viewers about a Washington State player whose father had a heart attack just before the Sun Bowl and died earlier this week in El Paso. Today ABC-7 spoke with the Sun Bowl volunteer, who set up a GoFundMe account for the family.

The Sun Bowl proudly promotes itself as the most hospitable bowl in the country, and thanks to volunteer April Rystad, perhaps that’s more true this year than any other in the past.

“We had gotten some information that one of the player’s parents had a heart attack,” said Rystad, the cheerleading coach at Andress High, who told ABC-7 her motherly instincts kicked in when she heard about Washington State center Riley Sorenson’s dad. “I have four boys and I couldn’t imagine if they were somewhere by themselves, don’t know anybody, everybody they know has pretty much left … You wouldn’t want your kids to go through that.”

Sorenson was walking down the Sun Bowl tunnel in full uniform, getting ready to face the University of Miami, when he was told that his father had a heart attack. Since he was only member of his family in town, he had to rush to Providence Memorial Hospital.”

“He was the next of kin so he did have to go see what was going on and make the decisions at that point,” Rystad said.

After the game, Rystad went to the hospital to check on him. But Rystad did more than that. She also set up a GoFundMe account to help the family with expenses, bringing in more than $66,000.

“We spent some time with family,” Rystad said through tears. “I saw what the kids went through.”

Bart Sorenson, 49, died Tuesday in El Paso after complications due to pneumonia.

“We had dinner with the family last night,” Rystad said. “They’re holding up.”

As for being perhaps the best example ever of Sun Bowl hospitality: “This wasn’t for me, it was for them,” Rystad said. “I’m just a person wanting to help out somebody who needed help. We want people to come here and be overwhelmed by the great people, not by what they read.”

Riley’s mom was diagnosed with melanoma recently. If you would like to help the family, you can donate to their GoFundMe account.

The Sorenson’s released a statement saying, thanks to the Sun Bowl and others, they know they were not alone during a very difficult time.

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