Paralyzed Pleasant Hill wrestler makes progress, looks forward to next stage of recovery
PLEASANT HILL, Calif. (KTVU) - In Pleasant Hill Monday night, the community rallied around a high school wrestler who became paralyzed after suffering a spinal cord injury during a match last month.
There was a fundraiser at College Park High School to help Ryan Joseph and his family.
Relatives and event organizers say the huge turnout is a reflection of how close this community is.
They estimate that more than 600 people attended the fundraiser.
Money flowed into the donations jars. It was $15 per person for a pasta dinner.
T-shirts were sold for $20 each. Raffles tickets were $10 a piece for prizes that included a large screen television.
Homemade baked goods were also offered as sweet motivators to generate more donations.
"I'm proud of our community and proud to be here in support," says Sandi Benabou,the mother of a classmate.
Organizers hope to raise $50,000 to help Ryan's family buy a wheelchair- accessible van.
"It's more than we can ever ask for. We can't wish for anything like this. It's outstanding," says Sherry Johnson, Ryan's grandmother.
On Jan. 10, Ryan suffered a spinal cord injury during a wrestling match which left him paralyzed from the neck down.
"I ran down and rendered aid," says Paul Silva.
He was off-duty from his job as battalion chief for Contra Costa County Fire and was attending the wrestling match to watch his own son, who is on the rival team from Alhambra High.
Silva attended to Ryan before the paramedics arrived.
He spearheaded this fundraiser. Silva says everyone is on Team Ryan.
"We're town rivals. All of our wrestling teams are here tonight. I know De La Salle's wrestling team is here tonight. We have a lot of community support," says Silva.
Last week, Ryan was moved to Colorado to Craig Hospital where he can receive specialized treatment.
His relatives shared with us photos of him taken at the facility.
His grandmother said he has shown signs of improvement everyday.
He's now practicing breathing without a ventilator and preparing to eat solid food.
He can move his arms to help control his wheelchair. He has regained some feeling in his feet.
Instead of mouthing words, he can now talk.
"Now he's telling bad jokes and the family is rolling their eyes at his bad jokes. He has a sense of humor," says Johnson.
Ryan's grandmother says the sophomore knows about the fundraiser. He has said,"On my worst days, I think of all of you and know it is going to be all right."
"We're all here for you. You're strong and get well brother," says Jacob Benahou, Ryan's classmate.
Family members say they're grateful for the support from the community and Ryan's medical team.
"It's going to be a long slow process. But it's just amazing what they've done already," says Johnson.
She says he'll be in Colorado for 90 days. But it could be a year or two before they know what his capabilities are. The family says the goal is to have Ryan walking again.
The family is also asking for donations be sent to:
The Joseph Family
C/O Mike Halket
PO Box 2122
Dublin, CA 94568
There is also a GoFundMe set up for him.