Erika Brannock was the woman of the hour.
Following the Ravens' training camp practice on Friday, team members flooded her presence to chat and take pictures with her. Brannock, a preschool teacher in Towson, was one of 264 injured victims in the Boston Marathon bombing. She was at the race to cheer on her mother who was participating in the national event.
Brannock was hospitalized for two months before returning home in June. Her left leg was partially amputated and her right leg will require additional surgeries.
Ray Rice reached out to Brannock a while back to offer some assistance to raise money to help with her medical bills. Rice decided to auction off one of his Jeeps and give Brannock a portion of the proceeds.
"I just thanked him," Brannock said. "I told him I appreciated it so much. He told me he just wanted to find some way to give back and help out. Whatever he can do."
Rice said the opportunity to help was all he needed to decide to sell one of his cars.
"Well, cars come and go, and obviously, the value of them depreciates as soon as you come off the lot with them," Rice said. "And I felt like it's something where if I can make something and be able to give it to somebody's family who needs it, that's very important to me. I'm not a materialistic guy, so me and my buddy Evan Berney over at Carbiz, we thought it would be cool to auction off a car and give some of the proceeds to that family who really needs something right now because of what they've been through. I never want to hold on to something that doesn't mean much to me, but if I can give something that I know somebody else will benefit [from], then I'm all in for it."
Brannock watched practice and was given a tour of the team facility in Owings Mills, Md.
"It's weird. All of this has been so strange," she said. "We talked about how I was just this preschool teacher from Towson. And now they get excited to see me. It means a lot."
After the players moved inside to cool down, coach John Harbaugh walked over to introduce himself. He immediately asked her if she had any pointers the team could use for future practices.
Harbaugh said he was looking forward to meeting Brannock after hearing her story.
"She's just a courageous, courageous person who is fighting like crazy to live a normal, great life with her family and her friends and in her profession," Harbaugh said. "We're proud to have her. [I] can't wait to meet her. Some of our players have already made a connection with her before and have a relationship with her, and some more will, obviously now, too."
(To donate money to The Erika Brannock Fund, visit her website here.)
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