Benefit to aid injured Lemont teen
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org March 14, 2013 10:26AM
Updated: April 15, 2013 11:08AM
Andrew Podczerwinski was enjoying a typical summer weekend at Bass Lake, Ind., with some friends last June.
But a storm came up and Podczerwinski and his friends were trying to bring some water sports equipment onto dry land from a dock by the lake.
Then a tree fell and Podczerwinski’s world changed.
The tree hit Podczerwinski, a 15-year old sophomore at Lemont High School, and caused broken ribs, two pelvic fractures, two collapsed lungs and fractures of the T-8 and T-9 vertebrae. It left him paralyzed from the waist down.
He was able to recover from those life-threatening injuries and is going through rehabilitation with the hopes of walking again. But through that hardship, Podczerwinski was able to stay in school full time, earn grades good enough for the school’s high honor roll and be named the October Student of the Month.
But Podczerwinski and his family can’t do it by themselves, so one group in Lemont is helping ease some of the financial and emotion burden with a fundraiser.
The Walk With Andrew benefit is from 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday at Willowbrook Banquets, 8900 Archer Ave., Willow Springs and is open to the public. Tickets are $42 and can be bought in advance through the walkwithandrew.com website, or if they are bought at the door on the day of the event cost is $40. A ticket buys two drinks, a buffet dinner and dessert and entertainment for the evening.
The proceeds will benefit Podczerwinski and his family.
Podczerwinski said the Walk With Andrew benefit is the first fundraiser for the family to help offset his medical bills.
“I’m really excited and shocked and surprised (at the support),” Podczerwinski said. “There are going to be 800-1,200 people there. That’s our projected (attendance) and we’ve also sold close to 500 tickets.”
Podczerwinski said there will also be a raffle and giveaways at the benefit.
Terri O’Neill-Borders of the Hope and Friendship Foundation of Lemont is helping to sponsor the Walk With Andrew benefit and has worked closely with the Podczerwinski family.
“We started working with them in September and I was told his history and I offered him assistance,” O’Neill-Borders said. “I know he will walk again, but he needs emotional support even more.”
The foundation, a 501(c)3 charity started in 2005, helps those who are in need of emotional and financial support after a tragedy or economic hardship.
O’Neill-Borders is constantly amazed at Podczerwinski’s resolve and upbeat attitude, considering what happened to him at such a young and vulnerable age.
“Andrew is amazing and his upbeat attitude is amazing to see in a 15-year old,” she said. “Never once has he felt sorry for himself. He even designed the logo for our T-shirts. He’s been a role model for everyone.”
Podczerwinski said it has been 300 days since his accident and he goes to therapy six days a week, with Sundays off. Five days a week he attends sessions at Next Steps in Willow Springs and then one day at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Willowbrook center.
“I am doing motor training so we can strengthen my spinal cord (to walk again) and I walk on walkers to try and do upper body training,” Podczerwinski said. “After my first surgery, my neurosurgeon told my parents I would never walk again. But since then at my three-month checkup, my doctor said he was surprised at how much I improved.”
Podczerwinski, said he gets around in a wheelchair but is hopeful he will walk again.
“The doctors can’t say how long it will be till I walk because spinal cord injuries are different — and everyone is different,” Podczerwinski said. “All my therapists say they’ve never seen anyone with my attitude. What am I going to do if I sit around and mope all day? I want to try my hardest instead of crying all day.”