Lenoir-Rhyne community helps student graduate after losing parents to COVID


HICKORY, N.C. — Andy Lopez has been playing baseball since he was 3. He played catcher for the Lenoir-Rhyne University baseball team. 

“I’ve had several knee surgeries because of it, too, but I love the position because I’m involved in every play,” Lopez said.


What You Need To Know

  • Andy Lopez played catcher for the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears
  • Lopez lost both parents to COVID-19 just weeks apart during the 2020 holidays
  • The Lenoir-Rhyne community helped raise $40,000 for his tuition so he could finish school
  • Lopez considered moving back home to Illinois but didn’t want to give up his parents’ dream of seeing him graduate

Lopez was raised in Illinois. His father was a dispatcher for Chicago Emergency Services for over 30 years and got Lopez started playing baseball. 

Andy Lopez graduated this spring with a sports and exercise science degree, fulfilling his parents’ dream. (Photo: Vanessa Leon)

During the Thanksgiving holiday in 2020, Lopez’s father, Lupe Lopez, was hospitalized with COVID-19. A few weeks later, so was his mom, Maria Lopez.

Within weeks, both died from the virus. 

“I have gone through the hardest thing that I can imagine. But talking with my siblings, my girlfriend, I can face any hardship after dealing with their death. I miss them and I will always have a hole in my heart, but this hardship has made me stronger,” Lopez said. 

Lopez had a few semesters left to graduate and considered leaving school and moving back home, leaving the game and the university he loves behind.

“But after talking with my family, I didn’t want to give up the hard work that my parents went through to get me here,” Lopez said. 

With approval from the NCAA, the Bears community helped raise $40,000 for Lopez’s tuition costs. 

This spring, Lopez graduated with a degree in sports and exercise science. 

He is thinking about a career in law enforcement or being a paramedic, following his father’s love of emergency services.

“I want to thank the community for all of their support. I couldn’t have made it without them, and I will miss it here,” Lopez said. “I will miss Hickory and the team and the university.”



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