North Canton community rallies around 16-year-old battling rare brain condition

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NORTH CANTON, Ohio -  Family members and teammates are hoping for the best as a 16-year-old North Canton high school student fights for his life.

Zach Herrera, a football player at Hoover High School, returned from a Florida vacation with his family and was found unresponsive at his home on Friday.

He was rushed to the hospital, where staff determined he suffers from a rare condition involving tangled vessels and arteries in his brain. Doctors told the family he most likely had it since birth.

"It's not something that you would routinely find at a doctor's office in a check. Something would have to have happened that he would have had a brain scan and they would have found it," said Jackie Fasolas, Zach's aunt.

Zach was taken to Akron Children's Hospital, where he has undergone two surgeries in an attempt to reduce damage from the swelling of his brain after the vessels ruptured.

With Zach literally in a battle for his life, teammates of the 16-year-old have are showing their support by going to the hospital together, many shaving their heads in a show of solidarity.

"Any time you are part of a football team, especially here, we are a family. And any time one of our family members is down, we are all down," said Hoover football coach Brian Baum.

"There are some of them who have stayed a lot of hours there at the hospital just to be supportive of the family and Zach himself," Baum said.

"There's been a lot of tears shed in these hospital hallways and rooms," said Tim Swanson, a close family friend. Mike and Gwen Herrera appreciate how much their son's teammates care.

"Mike was truly touched, as was Gwen. And it brought them to tears. It was just so happy to see the support from the community, but specifically those boys from that football team," Swanson said.

Away from the hospital, the Herreras' community also rallied behind the teen.

Swanson set up a GoFundMe page, which raised $10,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. The money will go towards Zach's medical expenses.

"It gives you faith in humanity again, it does," Swanson said. "It gives you faith in humanity and makes you realize how special one 16-year-old boy is, how many lives he has impacted and how many people are moved by his story and who he is."

"You know, right now, it is a tough situation, real emotional and at the hospital. It's an emotional roller coaster," Baum said. "I've been there several times myself and each time it is a little different,."

Baum said the same determination that made Zach one of the team's leading JV tacklers has made him a fighter.

"This is going to change many lives. This is going to change many of those boys' lives... It's going to affect them in a positive way," Fasolas said. "As a family, we're very positive. We believe. We're praying, we know that he can come out of this and he's strong. Zach's strong."

The owner of Scoop's Ice Cream plans to  donate 20 percent of his proceeds from everything he sells on Sunday to the family. He expects to have the football team there.

"It's definitely touched me. The family comes in here a lot for ice cream and you know I feel like they are one of our own," said Rob Gipson.

The North Canton McDonald's at Applegrove and North Main Street plans to contribute 20 percent of its sales between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on July 6 to  the family.

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