A brief summer trip to a friend’s lake house last summer has turned into a long journey for Andrew Podczerwinski of Lemont. The LHS sophomore is fighting the battle of his life after a tree fell on him during a sudden storm, paralyzing him from the waist down.
But Andrew is not fighting the battle alone. Along with his family and friends, members of the community are rallying to support the determined young man. They hope you will join them at a fundraiser dubbed “Walk With Andrew,” from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at Willowbrook Banquets, 8900 Archer Ave. in Willow Springs.
The event is sponsored by Hope and Friendship Foundation of Lemont, a non-profit 501 C3 organization, and all donations will be tax deductible.
The cost of $40 per ticket includes two drinks, a buffet dinner and sweets as well as live entertainment from the band “Pioneer” and DJ Stawski. Guests can also purchase tickets for a grand raffle for $20 each or six for $100. Proceeds/donations from Walk With Andrew will benefit the LHS student’s medical bills and extensive therapy.
Andrew tells his story
Following is Andrew’s account of the events of June 29 and since, from the Walk With Andrew website:
On the day of June 29th I was at my friend’s lake with a couple of close buddies. The sun was shining and the water was calm so we decided to go out on the lake and have some fun. We were tubing and waterskiing until a terrible storm came out of nowhere. We hurried to dock up the boat and get to shore quickly.
My friend and I decided to start bringing in the tubes so that they wouldn’t fly away. During this action a tree collapsed onto me and my friend. Luckily, he only acquired a fracture in his foot, but on the other hand, I suffered from several injuries. Most of my ribs were fractured, I had two pelvic fractures, two collapsed lungs and worst of all, by T-8 and T-9 vertebrae were fractured. Because of the damage to my back, it left me with an incomplete spinal cord injury, not allowing to move or feel from about my belly button down. Due to wrestling and lifting six out of seven days a week, I survived this accident.
My neurosurgeon told me that an average boy my age would’ve died from the impact. That is what I am thankful for. When I woke up from unconsciousness the first question I asked was, “How is everyone else?” As they told me that everyone was fine besides my friend’s foot fracture, I was extremely relieved.
Later on in my journey through the hospital I told my mom, “I’m going to get through this, I always find a way.”
After two months in the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, my lungs, ribs and pelvis healed, only leaving me with my damaged spinal cord. Five days a week I go to therapy, fighting my hardest to just walk again. I also have continued my sophomore year in high school.
Andrew has not only continued his sophomore year at LHS during his extensive therapy – but has also earned high honor roll status and was honored as one of four LHS Students of the Month in October. In his nomination, teachers described Andrew as “an excellent student who not only works hard, but also is friendly and conscientious … a genuinely terrific person … a pleasure to have in class.”
He was a member of the LHS wrestling program last year and plans to attend Northwestern University to study neurology.
These days, besides concentrating on his studies at school, Andrew is putting his athlete’s mindset to work in physical therapy, where he is striving to take his first steps all over again.
“Andrew experienced the unthinkable, suffering a crippling injury last summer that has left him wheel chair bound,” said Terri O’Neill Borders of the Hope and Friendship Foundation. “He has a dream of walking again and his therapist feel this is possible but only with physical therapy costs that his insurance has unfortunately notified his parents has been maxed out.
“A group of friends has been working tirelessly to create a most joyous and hopefully successful fundraiser celebrating a very determined and remarkable young man who has been knocked down but is working his way back up.”
Here’s how to purchase tickets for the fundraiser:
To purchase tickets by mail, write a check for $40 per ticket, payable to “Walk With Andrew,” and mail to:
- Walk With Andrew, 11 Liberty Drive, Lemont, IL 60439 or
- Chase Bank, c/o Walk With Andrew, 1132 State St., Lemont, IL 60439
- Hope and Friendship Foundation/Walk With Andrew, 721 Hickory St., Lemont, IL 60439. (Hope and Friendship also has T-shirts available for $15; send an email to O’Neill Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will save one for you.)
Tickets may also be purchased (for an additional $2 charge per ticket by PayPal or credit card) via the Walk With Andrew website at http://walkwithandrew.com/.
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