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Paying it forward: Friends, strangers help family of injured high school student
Photo courtesy of Chad and Ginger Hutto – 16-year-old Blake Hutto of McKinney High School attended the AAU Jr. Olympics National Qualifier this summer, where he qualified for the 2012 Jr. Olympics in the Decathlon and High Jump. Hutto was seriously injured in a car accident last month and remains in a coma.
Local businesses and the high school community are coming together to help a McKinney family focus on their son's recovery instead of their growing medical bills.
Chad and Ginger Hutto were overwhelmed when they heard that neighbors and people whom they'd never met helped coordinate a fundraiser for their 16-year-old son, Blake, who remains in a coma more than a month after being injured in a car accident.
"He was out cruising, like teenagers do," Chad said. "There was a blind spot ... He was crossing the road and he obviously didn't make it."
Both McKinney Chick-Fil-A restaurants will donate 15 percent of their sales from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Oct. 30 to help the Hutto family pay their medical bills. The percentage will include sales for dine-in, drive-through and carry out orders. Customers must write "Blake Hutto" on the receipt in order for their purchase to count.
"It's amazing they jumped on board to do something like this," said Chad of the fast-food chain. "They're great with the community - I've always thought that."
Blake, a McKinney High School junior, is currently at Select Specialty Hospital in Carrollton, an acute care facility for patients who are out of intensive care but not well enough for a rehab facility.
While he can open his eyes and is starting to shows signs of intentional movement, the varsity track and swim team star is technically still in a coma, making it hard to tell what the next few days and weeks hold, Chad said.
"He didn't open his eyes for a solid month, he was completely comatose," Chad said. "When he finally opened his eyes, that was huge. It took doctors another week after that to try to determine if he was seeing anything. We know there's brain damage in certain areas but every patient is different. We just have to wait and see."
Mary Bahr lives across the street from the Huttos and was devastated when she heard about the accident. After telling friends and coworkers, news of Blake's injury spread and led to a community-wide calling to help the family in any way possible.
"They're such a sweet family; we don't know what the future holds for him, and we just want it to be the best possible," said Bahr. "It kind of hit close to home, you don't realize how it can happen in instant and how lives are changed in an instant."
Blake's parents have been by his side since the accident occurred, monitoring his state and waiting for the next sign of progress. At first they thought Blake would be on a respirator the rest of his life, but it was removed two weeks after the accident. His tracheotomy has also been capped, allowing him to breathe on his own.
The most recent milestone was when Blake was able to eat his first solid food - pudding and applesauce.
"It was thrilling to see him take a bite of pudding but he could only take a few bites," Chad said. "He still has his tracheotomy in, so they had to make sure it goes into his stomach and not his lungs."
The Huttos have received support in places they never would have expected.
In addition to the Chick-Fil-A day, neighbors also donated 100 percent of the proceeds made from a recent community garage sale. Members of the church in Prosper near the intersection where the accident occurred held a candlelight vigil for Blake, an event that collected prayers from people he had never met.
"[They] didn't know Blake," Chad said. "He was some stranger and they were so affected by the accident they had a huge turnout of people out there praying for him."
Kristen Sinnes works with Bahr as a special education teacher at McKinney North High School and has yet to meet the Huttos, but decided to help organize the fundraiser after hearing about Blake's condition. Thanks to her previous experience as a respiratory therapist, Sinnes said she knew the Huttos would be facing tough challenges ahead.
"It's just a pay it forward type thing," she said. "We all have dark moments, and if this gives them a little less tress to focus on hope then it's for a great cause. Hopefully we get a big turnout."
Chad and Ginger have tried putting things into perspective in terms of medical bills and long-term care, but, like Blake's condition, there are still a lot of unknowns. Both are extremely thankful for the amount of support they have gotten and want to make sure credit is given where it's due.
"There would be too many names to mention everyone that has helped or offered themselves to us but ... we have gotten [so much support] from the entire school district including the administration, coaching staff and all teachers, as well as our employers," Chad said. "We are truly blessed to live in such a great community."