Frederick football player River Lakey just finished his junior football season for the Warriors.
In 10 games, he gained 664 yards and scored a half-dozen touchdowns. He caught three passes for 54 more yards as the Warriors advanced to the quarterfinals of the state 3A football tournament.
How he wound up in Frederick is a rather roundabout story. He’s from the African country of Rwanda.
“I got found in a drainage ditch during a storm (in 2004),” Lakey said. “I was brought to an orphanage In Kigali, Rwanda, just being a couple months old. For the next 3 1/2 years, I would spend time in that orphanage until my dad (Jimmy Lakey) saw a picture of me when they were looking to adopt a child.”
The first meeting between father, mother and potential new son was in May 2007. In August 2008, his father returned to Rwanda. The adoption was finalized Sept. 4, and Lakey joined his new family in America Sept. 10.
“’I just knew you were my boy the first time I saw you,’ my dad says to me when he tells me my story every gotcha day,” Lakey said. “The adoption process in Rwanda was really delayed, so it took a lot of trips for mom and dad to finally take me home.
“I had no idea where I was going, but I knew that I was in good hands,” Lakey added. “I first lived in California while my mom and dad both had good careers in the radio industry. Then a couple of years later, I moved to Colorado Springs, when I was around 4 years old.”
Lakey and his family didn’t stay in the Springs for long.
“I had no idea our next move was Frederick. I had just got out of second grade, and that’s when my parents told me that we are moving again,” Lakey said. “I didn’t really think much of it all. I was just sad that I had to leave my friends. When I got up here, I knew that I wanted to take up a sport, and my new friends talked about how they played football.”
Lakey missed the third-grade season of football “and was bummed when I asked my dad. I wanted to play, but they allowed me to play next season, and I said I wanted to play tackle without the fact or idea of playing flag football,” Lakey said.
Football became more important in middle school.
“I started to work more outside of practice on my craft and other stuff. I’ve always had that dream of playing college football since I was in first grade, and now I can finally say I am one step away from my goals,” Lakey said. “During college, I want to pursue my goal of playing football for an (NCAA) D-1 school and learn about biomedical sports medicine. After college, I want to try and see where the sport of football takes me and with that also learn about sports med.”
Lakey and his family are involved with a group called Rivers Promise (www.riverspromise.org), an organization that provides education funds and basic human needs, such as food, homes and bedding) for Rwandan children since 2008.
“During a visit in the orphanage, my parents met my friends and made a promise to do everything possible to assure that my earliest friends could also know the hope of a brighter tomorrow,” Lakey said. “And that’s why Riverspromise.com is a big part of my life. It’s a nonprofit organization that helps the people of Rwanda in needs of help for a better life.”
As he sets sights on college and his life after college, Lakey spends time thinking about his past.
“When I’m successful someday, I feel like I have to go back and give to the place where I started,” he continued. “I always try to go back to my homeland, and something tells me there is so much more I need to learn about my past.
“I always think about how grateful I am at this chance that I got and others didn’t get in life,” he said. “I could’ve still been in Africa if my dad and I never crossed paths. I would’ve never had the life I have right now, and that’s why I live every day as a learning opportunity and try to make every day the best I can.”