STILLMAN VALLEY (WREX) — Every time Caleb Fleming pulls out of his driveway, a patch of sunflowers serves as a reminder.
“Always spread sunshine and sunflowers project sunshine,” the Stillman Valley senior football player said.
That’s something his sister Emily Fleming lived by, spreading sunshine to the people she came into contact with. Emily died in a car wreck four years ago, and Em’s Sunshine Patch continues to provide the shining light that Emily shone on this world when she was here.
“I always tell myself everything I do is for her,” Caleb said of his sister. “Especially with it being around the 4th, it’s even deeper emotions.”
September 4, 2015, is a day burned into the minds of the Stillman Valley community. It’s a day Caleb and his family will never forget. The day of Emily’s death. Caleb plays in Emily’s honor with that date and the words, “This is for you,” written on his right cleat, and “You’re worth it,” written on his left cleat next to the date.
Just two days after the 4th anniversary of her death, Caleb and his Cardinal teammates pulled off a huge win over rival Byron, who was ranked no. 1 in the state’s 3-A rankings. The dramatic 18-16 win helped Stillman Valley make a statement.
“They’re an amazing team and it was an amazing battle,” Fleming said. “As a football player, those are the things you live for.”
It was a game Emily would have appreciated.
“She was a huge fan and really enjoyed the game,” Stillman Valley head coach Mike Lalor said. “Not because she was a cheerleader, but she was a really big fan of the game.”
Caleb remembers watching Emily cheer, or sometimes forget to, when he was younger watching Cardinal football.
“She was one of those cheerleaders that would turn around and forget to do cheers and watch the game instead,” Caleb said.
Now fans watch “Flem’s Boys” on Friday nights, as Caleb and the Cardinals carry her with them on and off the field.
“She was the type of person that would just be showing her best self and being nice to everyone,” Caleb said. “That’s what the motto of spreading sunshine is. Just always being your best self and nice to everyone as much as you can.”
A legacy in full bloom, serving as a ray of sunshine every time Caleb Fleming drives by Em’s Sunshine Patch.