A community is rallying around a Courtenay man fighting for his life in hospital after a freak accident during a charity softball game.

Chris Godfrey, 32, was running toward first base in Courtenay’s Lewis Park on Saturday when he was struck in the back of the head with a softball.

Godfrey, a husband and father to a two-year-old daughter, was promptly rushed to a local hospital in critical condition before being airlifted to Victoria, where he has since undergone brain surgery.

Players in the Comox Valley’s tight-knit sports community are in shock.

“Everyone knows him. Really good guy, young guy just starting out in life,” said tournament organizer Scott Parsons, overwhelmed with emotion as he recalled the tragic incident.

“It’s unbelievable. You never think something like that’s going to happen when you come here to play a game we all love since we were a child, right?”

While Godfrey was playing in a tournament to help raise money for families needing medical treatment for their kids, the community has banded together to raise thousands of dollars for his family as they deal with the horrific accident.

A GoFundMe campaign launched by a family friend on Sunday has already raised more than $15,000 to help support Godfrey’s wife and daughter.

“We always feel like family day in and day out, but this brought us together like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Bre Morgan, a member of the slow-pitch league. “And I hate that it took something like this to show the power of our community.”

Morgan and others are also raising cash donations for Godfrey’s family through raffles, red ribbons and armbands, and hosted a vigil at the ball park Monday night in support of Godfrey.

That hasn’t gone unnoticed by Godfrey’s wife, Amanda, who wrote a touching post to the community on Facebook.

“Tears fill my eyes while I read and re-read all the heart-filled posts about my amazing Chris,” she wrote. “I cannot thank you enough for all the love and all the support.”

The tragedy has also sparked change in the Comox Valley Slopitch League, which in the wake of Godfrey’s injury has introduced a mandatory helmet rule beginning Wednesday.

Teams were not previously required to use helmets in games before the accident.

“If a helmet’s going to save someone’s life or change the outcome of the tragedy of this weekend, then so be it,” said league president Adrienne Elliott. “Then wear a helmet, have fun, because it was awfully devastating to people who were here this weekend.”

Elliott said other leagues on the island are also now looking at making helmets mandatory as well.

With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Gord Kurbis