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From tragedy, Tabor builds triumph

College dedicates training facility to memory of student Jenessa Hlad

News editor

Homecoming at Tabor College on Saturday was about much more than former students returning for reunions and campus festivities.

It was about the family of Jenessa Hlad and her Tabor family celebrating her life and preserving her legacy through the naming of an athletic training room in her honor.

Jenessa was the fourth child of Randy and Beth Hlad of Sylvan Grove to attend Tabor. She was studying to be an athletic trainer, and worked with Bluejays’ athletes. She died unexpectedly July 24 of septic infection while on a trip to Texas. She would have been a junior this fall.

“This is more of a generational Tabor family than most are; to lose the last one so early is very difficult,” head athletic trainer Season Graves said. “She was destined to come here, so for us to be a part of the family, the whole family, is a blessing.”

Jenessa’s sister, Elisa Agler, said the connection between Jenessa and Tabor sports started when she was a young child.

“When I started Tabor as a freshman 14 years ago Jenessa would have been 5 years old,” Agler said. “Since I was a cheerleader and had many friends on the team, I have pictures of her on the football field with the players at 5. Tabor was her home away from home, and it was family.”

Jenessa’s first choice for a health career was to be an ob/gyn and deliver babies, Agler said, but athletic training gave her the chance to blend health with a love of sports.

Once she decided that, a goal to become an athletic trainer for the Kansas City Chiefs was a foregone conclusion.

“I would say she’s the biggest Chiefs fan of all time,” Agler said. “She was the little girl who wanted to pick up Chiefs figurines. Even when they were down and out, she was a loyal fan. I think she’s always loved football.”

She infused that love into her work with an exuberance that was noticed beyond the training room.

“She impacted the lives of the athletes, and she brought joy to our campus,” president Jules Glanzer said.

Graves agreed.

“When she smiled, you couldn’t help but do the same, and if she felt it wasn’t good enough she had a joke to go with it,” she said. “We remember her all the time. We pray every day. We strive to be what she would want us to be.”

The Bluejays now have a tangible way to remember Jenessa: A bronze plaque bearing her name identifies the entrance to the training room, on the lower level of the athletic center, facing the football field.

“It’s pretty humbling, let me tell you; we feel very honored,” Randy Hlad said. “The whole campus has rallied around us and supported us through this whole ordeal, and we just feel totally blessed. Sometimes, as a dad or a mom, we wondered what she was up to, but now that we see some of these things, it’s a thrill to know she left a legacy and an impact here.”

Agler said she also was gratified by the college’s efforts to establish a scholarship in Jenessa’s name.

“It’s been fun just to see what has played out, and to hear those stories from others of just how much of an impact she really did make,” Agler said. “I think it was above and beyond what she knew and what we knew, and I hope she sees that from heaven.”

Last modified Oct. 22, 2015

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