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Friends, supporters chip in to help Ernst family
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Donna Hooton looks over photographs of Brian Ernst on Sunday during the Ernst family benefit at Wild Wing Cafe in Gainesville. Although she had never met Ernst, who died of cancer a month ago, Hooton attended the benefit because of a special bond she felt with the Ernst family. Hooton lost her husband two years ago to melanoma. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Sunday marked one month since Brian Ernst, a 19-year-old former West Hall High baseball player, died from cancer.

“He was always a good athlete, which is what people tend to focus on; but if you really knew him, it was his humor that he was really known for,” said Ryan Bozarth, a friend and next-door neighbor of Brian’s.

In honor of the young man and his family, a benefit concert was held Sunday at Wild Wing Cafe in Gainesville.

The event featured local musicians Moby Dick, Alex Hall, Wilder Embry and Nate Currin. Former University of Georgia quarterback David Greene was also available to sign autographs.

The event was organized by a team of Ernst supporters and Wild Wing employees including Lisa Copeland, Patrick Kelly, Rick Hall and Trish Hall.

Kelly said that the benefit, $25 per person, was affordable.

“The money is for the family’s financial situation because of the medical bills — there is a very big need,” said Clint Copeland, whose son, Jake, was friends with Brian.

“We were helpless to do anything to help him, so this is an outlet for us to be able feel like we did something,” said Clint Copeland’s wife, Lisa.

Kelly said he felt that it was the least people could do to help pay the Ernsts’ bills, whether it be for one day, one week or one year.

“You know how you walk in a room and there are some people that frown and other people that make you think, ‘I want to know more about him’ — well, that person was Brian,” Kelly said.

Jake Copeland said that Brian Ernst was always laughing and always saw the positive side of things.

Jake Copeland’s sister, Kimberly, said Ernst was probably one of the nicest people that you could ever meet.

“We used to have Monday night football and game night, so every Monday night Brian would be there to play games with us, and we always had fun with him,” she said.

Lisa Copeland said that if Ernst was at Wild Wing Cafe on Sunday, he would be the first one in the chow line.

“He would have four sandwiches instead of one, and he would get double potato chips, and then he would come back and say, ‘Where are the snacks?’” Lisa Copeland said with a laugh.

“This would rock him; he would love it and be so amazed and just in awe,” she said.

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