The first ride of the year on a beautiful Sunday morning left a young father of three small children hospitalized with brain injuries, and friends of the family are raising funds to help with his medical bills.
Dustin Wooten, 26, of Punxsutawney, was thrown from an all-terrain vehicle on Route 286 in Banks Township around 11:20 a.m. March 10, and was flown to Allegheny General Hospital, according to state police.
He remains sedated in the hospital with head and brain trauma, friends said.
And a spaghetti dinner and basket raffle to benefit his family is planned for 5 p.m. April 20 at the War Memorial in Big Run.
“This is our way of showing Crystal (Wooten) and Dustin that while we can’t be there 24/7 for her because we have kids of our own and we can’t always to go the hospital with her, this is our way of being there for her,” said Tracy Quick, of Punxsutawney.
She and Kim Mnich, of Marion Center, are organizing the fundraiser.
Wooten and his wife, Crystal, have three children ages 1, 2 and 6, and have been married around eight years and together for 11 years, Mnich said. Crystal works at Biggie’s Meat Market and splits her time between work, her children and her husband at the hospital.
“Obviously he can’t work so he’s not being able to support his family. His wife is doing what she can to be able to support herself, him and the kids and he doesn’t have any health insurance,” Mnich said.
The dinner will be from 5 to 7 p.m., with the basket raffle following until 8 p.m. Dinner tickets are $5, or free for children ages 3 and under. Raffle tickets are $1 for three or $5 for 15 tickets. There are 15 baskets so far, and the women are still looking for contributors.
“We’re accepting any kind of donations that people want to donate,” Mnich said. They need people to donate desserts, pasta sauce or pasta, paper plates and napkins, and raffle baskets.
“Whatever we do not get donated, Tracy and myself will pay for and get,” she said.
But so far there’s been a good response. “Dustin knows so many people,” she said.
Quick has been close to the family since meeting them a year ago, but Mnich used to baby-sit Wooten and his sister. Both women said he enjoyed being outside, riding ATVs or hunting and fishing.
The evening before the accident, Wooten posted on his Facebook page about the next day’s ride.
“Can’t wait to ride with everyone tomorrow, feels good to be able to go with y’all again,” he said.
Crystal Wooten also commented: “Better be good ’n safe,” she wrote around 8:30 p.m.
“(It was) the first ride of the year for him,” Quick said.
Mnich said her family and theirs were always outside. Her children were outside playing on their four-wheelers that weekend as well, she said.
“You never know what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen,” she said. “God has a plan for everybody and he does what he does.”
For information about the fundraiser or to donate, call Quick at (724) 549-5342 or Mnich at (724) 592-3362. There is also a fundraising page online at http://fnd.us/c/2Sj2f.