KENT ISLAND, Md. (WJZ) — Kent Island High School soccer coach Lin Outten remembers the first time he met Mike Bubnov, an exchange student from Ukraine.

“The athletic director introduced me to him. I wasn’t even sure what country he was from at first,” Coach Outten told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “We already had tryouts. We had already picked the team. We weren’t even sure what to do with him.”

But they made a spot, and during his time here, just before the pandemic, Bubnov earned the respect of the team, especially when he kicked a game-winning goal in the playoffs.

“Mike was just the story of the postseason. Who’s this kid. Where did he come from? He ended up being a little hero that night.”

Soon, Bubnov would head back to Kyiv.

And when the war began, Coach Outten reached out. “I shot him a note. Within an hour, he messaged me back, and we’ve been able to stay connected at least every other day since that day two weeks ago. He sent me video of tanks. It was very emotional just to see that,” Outten said.  “He is a very calm, poised person. And even in his messages to me, there’s no panic. I know that he has a very loving family, so we take a lot of satisfaction in that. But I just picture him in his soccer jerseys. He’s just a kid. He’s the same age as my boys, and it’s heartbreaking to see him. He sends photos and videos—and to think of the pictures he took here. We’re very afraid for them. The news is so unsettling and frightening.”

Bubnov and his family fled Kyiv to a safer region of Ukraine, but could take little with them.

Dave and Cheryl Adams, who hosted him on Kent Island, have raised more than $6,000 to help.

Their son Brandon developed a special bond with Bubnov. They sent WJZ pictures as they showed him the best of America, from Las Vegas to New York.

And he made quite an impression on them, touching so many in Maryland who are now working to help from half a world away.

“What’s your hope for Mike and his family?” Hellgren asked Coach Outten.

“Honestly, that they get across the border, and they’ll be ok because it doesn’t look good,” he said. “Our hearts are breaking. You feel a little helpless. We just remind anybody we can to think about them, pray for them. And any resources that can be sent their way, we thank them for that.”