One family's story of love and loss shown on the screen
by Katy Ruth Camp
April 04, 2011 12:00 AM | 174749 views | 79 79 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Maryanne and Steven Abbate stand in one of the rooms in their Powder Springs home decorated by portraits and keepsakes of their children, especially of their late son Luke who passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident five years ago. The film 'The 5th Quarter' was released March 25 that tells the story of the family's loss and attempts to make something positive from Luke's death. <br> Photo by Laura Moon
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"There's something about the sunshine that makes everything better," Maryanne Abbate said, as she gazed out of her dining room windows. "Luke's funeral was a dreary day. Those days are hard to get through."

And although the Abbate home is abuzz with the sounds of emails, phone calls, and text messages over the national attention the family has gained recently as the subject of the feature film, “The 5th Quarter,” the family would trade it all to have their Luke back.

Luke Abbate was 15 — a sophomore at Harrison High School in west Cobb — when his ride home from lacrosse practice had to cancel and he accepted a ride with three other friends on Feb. 15, 2006. Luke barely knew the driver, and Maryanne said they have been told that as soon as the teenage driver began to drive recklessly and speed close to 80 miles per hour on a vacant road with steep hills, he and his friends pleaded for the driver to let them out. But within minutes, the car crashed into a ditch and within hours, their vibrant, athletic, kind-hearted son had passed away.

“I still don’t know why he didn’t call me to pick him up, like he always would if he needed a ride,” Maryanne said. “I guess I’ll never know.”

Following the death of Luke, the family struggled to find happiness, reasons and faith. Maryanne and Steven also have three other children — twins Rachel and Adam, 27, and Jon, 25. Rachel and Adam were born premature, and Rachel has used a wheelchair all of her life, but her disabilities did not keep her from becoming Harrison’s Homecoming Queen in 2002. Maryanne fondly recalled Luke helping her pop wheelies in her wheelchair and protecting her as her fun-loving and caring brother.

Luke was also close with Adam, who was just months shy of graduating from the University of Georgia when he was killed, and who spent two years at home before fulfilling his dream of going to law school because of the intense sadness and loss he felt after the accident, Maryanne said.

But the sibling probably closest to Luke was his big brother and football star, Jon.

“He always followed Jon, wherever he would go. He wanted to wear his jerseys, big clothes. So big sometimes they would go down to his ankles and all you could see was his shoes,” Steven said.

Jon was a sophomore linebacker at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., when the family lost Luke, and he used his baby brother as his inspiration during the school’s triumphant 2006 football season.

Jon switched his jersey number to Luke’s number, five, and began holding up five fingers before the fourth quarter, naming it Luke’s quarter — the fifth quarter. The trend caught on, and soon, all of Jon’s teammates and the Wake Forest fans began doing the same. That season was incredibly successful for a team that is usually not considered a front-runner in the Atlantic Coast Conference. So successful, the team went 10-3 and beat Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship game, earning a National Coach of the Year award for head coach Jim Grobe and All-American and first team All-ACC distinctions for Jon.

The story of the family’s loss and Wake Forest’s inspirational season is depicted in the film “The 5th Quarter,” which was released in theaters on March 25. The movie was also filmed in Winston-Salem, Maryanne said. Since its release, Maryanne and Steven have traveled the media circuit, even landing on The Today Show, and have booked several speaking engagements to raise money for the foundation they started, the Luke Abbate 5th Quarter Foundation. The foundation raises awareness of the consequences of reckless driving and has given worthy Harrison graduates close to $50,000 in college scholarships.

Luke was an organ donor, and five of his organs were successfully transplanted into other people who needed them. One was a heart, which went to a single mother in New York who is also depicted in the film.

Steven is vice president of sales in the Southeast for Coram Specialty Infusion Services, while Maryanne said she stays home to look after Rachel. Jon is now a middle linebacker in the NFL for the Houston Texans and Adam is set to graduate from law school at UGA. Steven said the movie is 99 percent accurate, and the family was able to have input on the script thanks to their relationship with director, producer and screenwriter Rick Bieber.

“He spent probably a year and a half with us, just getting to know us, talking with us one-on-one, having phone conversations, then he sent us the script, and it was so accurate. We had a few things we wanted changed because we wanted it to be as true as possible, and he changed them,” Steven said.

“We wouldn’t have signed an agreement with him allowing him to use our story if the script wasn’t as accurate as possible. And it’s raw. It’s how true believers react when they lose their most precious gift — their child,” Steven said, referring to his family’s Christian faith. “It’s about how you get through it with each other and with God. It may not be pretty, but you get through it.”

Maryanne said she focuses on her writing. She keeps a journal and writes for various Christian magazines and blogs, while the movie has become more of Steven’s focus.

Steven said he has watched the film “probably 30 or 40 times,” because he does not want to forget anything about their story, or about Luke.

“If I stop feeling the pain, then I’m not living anymore. I don’t want to ever feel like he’s completely gone away,” Steven said.

Watching the film for Maryanne is harder, she said.

“It’s hard to relive. It’s the event that broke my heart,” Maryanne said. “It’s hard to see it on the screen. It’s painful and it scares me a little because it is so heart wrenching. But I hope that it can make people look at things differently and understand the consequences of reckless driving. Kids forget that if something happens to them, their parents are the ones left hurting.”
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Brooke Leigh
January 07, 2015
As I watched the movie with great sadness I also experienced great joy watching the support of the community as the five fingers were held up, remembering Luke and how he lived. How he continues to live in all those he has inspired. We all grieve differently for our experiences are individual. Thank you for sharing your story, although painful it touch my heart in so many ways. Brooke Leigh (Houston, Texas)
Keisha F.
September 28, 2013
I just watched your story. I don't want to say movie because this is something that you will continue to deal with for the rest of your lives. I am extremely sorry about the loss of your son and brother. This truly changes the way you look at life and shows how quick it can change. Luke seemed to be a wonderful young man who touched many lives. May God continue to touch and be with your family.
debra rose
September 23, 2013
I had watched the movie once before with the dialogue and it was a moving and emotional story. If people want to see and feel the true emotions of the movie watch it without the sound and let the feelings move you by heart. I had never watched a movie more touching than this one was. Sorry for your loss and thanks fof letting people know that Faith can pull you through.
Anna Ross
June 10, 2013
It was a wonderful movie I cried almost the whole time.
March 17, 2013
A heartwarming movie. My younger sister was killed in 1989 in a car accident. Same as Luke, she was declared brain dead and donated her organs. My prayers to their family.
Jean Miller
February 11, 2013
I have never cried so hard during a movie, I also have a 16 yr old son, a 14yr old son, and a 9yr old daughter. My boys and my husband and I watched this and were so touched. I can not imagne a loss as such.....we will continue to prayer for this family and there loss.
David Cloutier
December 30, 2012
I was absolutely heart broken after I viewed the movie last night. My wife and I just prior to viewing "The 5th Quarter" had watched "Freedom Diaries". My wife was tired and went to sleep so I watched "The 5th Quarter" by myself. I haven't been moved so much before with any other story, movie, novel or life changing event than this. I didn't sleep well due to the pain I felt for the Abbate family. I have three children Isabela, Olivia, and Camden 12, 10 and 9. It is important for Anna and I as parents to share as much as we possibly can with our children to educate them on the potential dangers in life. Although we do not wish to frieghten the children I had them watch the movie Sunday morning to understand the grief that is shared within a family and the struggles that will continue for a very long time when tragedy strikes a home as deeply as this real life event did to the Abbate family. I will forever be heart broken for the Abbates and will honor my duty as a parent to educate my children and make them aware of these perils. Thank you so much for sharing your story. The Abatte family should be admired by all for their strength and courage and the ability to continue their unselfish acts by educating the nation on reckless driving. I have listened, I have learned and I will share. God Bless Abbatte family.
Marilyn Queen
January 05, 2013
To the Abbate family...Words just cannot express to all of you how I feel..I saw the Fifth quarter for the first time lastnight Jan. 4th 2013 and watched it twice sense then...All my children are grown and have children of their own great grandchildren are still to small to drive..which brings me to say after watching this matter how old your children are they are still your god I think of how there could have been many more lives taken had there been another car travaling in the other direction with maybe an entire family that this young driver could have met head on.....this movie Steven and Maryanne has opened alot of eyes here...I have called all of my children and told them about this movie and the loss that you all have had to deal with since...they are all watching it today with my grandchildren...I am so very very sorry for your tragic loss...but I want you to know that this was a tragic loss for me heart broke right along with yours...I will forever remember LUKE and your whole family and look up in the heavens and hold my hand up proudly showing the number 5 and tell LUKE....this is for you honey...we will all see LUKE again one day...and what a day that will be...ALL MY LOVE TO YOU AND YOUR WHOLE FAMILY....MARILYN QUEEN...covington georgia
Ron Grant
November 14, 2012
Both my teen age girls have watched this movie, not three times. And made their mom and I watch it this evening. I am so sorry for your loss but I am sure you sharing your story of Luke have saved more lives than you know. God Bless You and Your family.
Bo Benavente
November 03, 2012
Thank you for sharing your story; so tragic and yet such a beautiful tribute to Luke and the love of his family and community. I was so, so touched by this.
tiffany glenn
October 11, 2012
i appsoluttly love this movie i cried i was hard to hold back my feelings, i feel as if one is gone we shall make them live thru us. may luke shine n peace and his family live for him even thru the heart ache. there will be better days <3
Val H
September 23, 2012
To the Abbate Family! My heart and prayers go out to you all. I just wantto thank you so very much for sharing your heartwrenching story! I pray you are allowing God to continue to take you through this difficult journey. I appreciate your story and understand why you did not go to deep, for it is truely a private painful situation. Maybe later you will be able to share more in a movie or book your God testimony! Love you with the love of the Lord! God Bless you!
September 09, 2012
This was the most heart wrenching movie I think I have ever watched. Thank you for sharing your story. I don't think I have ever cried in a movie as much as this one. God Bless you and your Family for having the courage to share your story and creating the foundation in remembering Luke. I am sure there is not a day that goes by that you don't think about him and the what ifs. Just know he is in a better place and helped 5 people to go on with living. Thank you
Nikki b
August 28, 2012
The film wrenched at my heart, but what a truly remarkable family you all are, lukes memory will live on forever. God bless you all.
Paulino Lima
August 20, 2012

I watched the movie'm from Brazil-Rio de Janeiro,'ve been through a similar situation happened to me by God not anything more serious. I would like you to know that I'm sorry for Luke and I'm sure he's in a good place together with God. hugs

signed. Paulino Lima

August 17, 2012
Just finished watching the movie. I'm so sorry for your loss. Praying for continued strength for your family. God bless all of you.
August 16, 2012
I just finished watching the movie. I am terribly sorry for your loss. May Heavenly Father give you the knowledge and comfort that you will someday reunite with your son in Heaven. Thru this tragedy, your son Luke has brought to pass many great miracles here on earth. It's so wonderful that his organs were able to save 5 other lives.

I am also sooo greatful that your family has started a foundation to educate young drivers about the terrible dangers of reckless driving.

Thank you for sharing your life with us that we might learn. =)

Tara Clark
July 22, 2012
I just watched your movie and I am so sorry for your loss, but as the poem in the movie states they are only loaned to us to love and care for. And I am sure Luke was loved and well taken care of for his father the Lord. Thank you for showing us your story. Life is a gift but you were strong and showed your other children the true t estimate of God..
June 29, 2012
I was so saddened to learn of the lost of their beloved child. It just shows how vulnerable our children are to peer pressure. If there were only some way to teach our children to listen to their inner voices. I pray for the driver of the vehicle, what a burden he must carry for the remainder of his life. Praise to the family to carry on their son's life thorough organ donation.
June 23, 2012
I love that story ,I feel so sad for this family.May God be with you
Azekial Racen
June 03, 2012
The story was good but the plot was confusing and the movie itself wasn't good it had many unrealistic things in it. It was a sad story but if the movie would have been good then the story would've been amazing.
August 27, 2012
I totally disagree with you! I thought the movie was very moving,especially the scene in the church when the father was pushing his son's casket, and the last scene with the father and the donor heart recipient. Outstanding acting!!

May God continue to carry this family through their sorrow, and rebuilding of their lives as only He can.
December 05, 2012
I cried & cried & cried thruout the movie, feeling the pain so aptly expressed by the excellent actors & am amazed that the entire family coped as well as they did. However, I agree that there were pieces missing from the movie, such as the consequences suffered by driver of car; were parents friends with Abbates; explanation of the outstretched hand, Jon's part in encouraging his team was extremely underplayed...were some of the main items omitted but as to storyline..this movie was very inspiring..thank you to Abbate family for sharing their story with us.
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