Community Embraces Events For Victim

Bloomingdale Victim FundraiserThere has been a recent outpouring of support from the community for the East Bay High School student who was attacked at Bloomingdale Library in April.
Recently, a benefit was held at the Ruskin VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), located at 5120 U.S. Hwy. 41 N. in Ruskin raising more than $17,000 of much needed funds for the student who now requires $30,000 per month in rehabilitation costs
In Valrico, Bleu Salon will open its doors on a Monday when it is typically closed and donate all funds for services to the girl’s fund. On Monday, September 29, 12-5 p.m., all hair cuts, mini manicures and pedicures, 15-minute massages and waxing will be for donations to the fund. Bleu is located at the Lithia Crossings Stein Mart anchored plaza at 3472 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. Call 651-4020 or visit www.bleusalonandspa.com.
At the Ruskin event, there was food, music, and beverages. The cost was $10 per family at the door or $5 per person. Additional donations were also accepted; for a donation of $10 or more, people could sign an eight-foot banner for her.
Melanie Morrison, the executive director for the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce, who along with a small committee comprised of Denise Reiter, Shirley May, Tony Zipperer, Stacy Self and Kelly Reedy, organized the event in less than two weeks, she said. She enlisted the help of some of the girl’s friends.
Morrison said anywhere between 1,000-1,100 people were served spaghetti dinners at $5 a plate. The spaghetti was prepared by Bernie’s Sports Bar. Other food items were donated by Sisco, Apollo Meats, The Island Bar & Grill and Olive Garden in Brandon. John Lawson, of Hydro Harvest Farms in Ruskin, donated, made and distributed 300 strawberry shortcakes. Morrison said they were “very popular.” Chick-fil-A also donated assorted desserts and tea for the event. Coca-Cola donated 30 cases of soda for the event and the VFW rented out its building for no charge for this event.
“At one point, we ran out of food,” Morrison said. “Pizza Hut in Sun City Center called and brought enough food for 200 more people.”
The event raised a total of $20,000, with the Wal-Mart on Bloomingdale Ave. having donated $1,000 prior to the event, and the Brandon Foundation committed to donating $2,000. The night of the event, Morrison said, they raised $17,000 in cash.
“We never dreamed it would be that great,” she said. She had volunteered for the Ruskin Relay for Life in April of 2008, approximately two weeks before her attack, Morrison said. She had also volunteered the year before at the Ruskin Seafood Festival in November of 2007. “So it had extra meaning,” Morrison said.
The 18-year-old girl, who was blinded in the April attack and can’t walk or swallow, is undergoing rehabilitation in Sarasota. The girl was about to graduate from East Bay and had a full scholarship to the University of Florida. Morrison said the girl’s sister told them that the girl and her mother watched the event on television from their room.
Her care costs $30,000 a month and Medicaid recently notified the girl’s family that it would only pay for her medical care until August 15.
The girl’s 16-year-old assailant, Kendrick Morris, has been arrested and charged with kidnapping, aggravated and sexual battery. He has pled guilty and is awaiting trial in Orient Road Jail.
For more information, call Morrison at 645-3808 or send an e-mail to ruskinchamber@earthlink.net.
For those who did not make the event, but still wish to contribute, a fund has been set-up for the teenager at SunTrust Bank. To contribute, go to any SunTrust Bank branch and request the money go to the Bloomingdale Library Assault Fund.
Other events are being planned across the community with all funds going directly to the care of the girl, whose name and identity has remained private.