Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fundraiser benefits paralyzed Palmer outdoorsman

Maybe you’ve seen the flyers at businesses around town or spotted one at Turner’s Corner on the way down from a spring trip to Hatcher Pass. 
The flyers describe fundraisers for a young guy named Bradley Johnson, a 24-year-old from Palmer who broke his back in a February snowmachine accident. His family hopes to pursue aggressive stem-cell treatment that could help Brad walk again.

The Post doesn't know about the rest of you, but it seems like this winter was especially hard on people who play in the snow. We heard about Bradley from friends with a broken back in their family, too. 

Here’s the rest of Brad's story, and ways you can help him get on his feet again.
Johnson knew his back was broken as soon as his snowmachine hit the windblown snow -- hit way too hard -- while landing a cliff jump at Hatcher Pass on Feb. 4. A helicopter flew him to Providence Alaska Medical Center. Doctors fused five vertebrae in his back and held his spine together with pins and screws. Brad stayed at the hospital through the month of February. 
He’s paralyzed from the waist down.
Before the accident, Johnson spent most of his time outside, hunting, fishing or riding something - snowmachines, four-wheelers, dirt bikes. His aggressive personality and gumption earned him the nickname B-Rad. His mother, Annette Johnson, makes no apologies for the way her son got hurt. 
“He’s a very aggressive snowmachine rider. He was jumping off a cliff like he had done hundreds of times before. But this one was bigger,” she said. A heavy avalanche backpack didn't help, either.
Now his gutsy attitude is serving Brad well. Generally, with a T-12 fracture like his, paralysis starts at the rib cage and includes the abdomen, leaving a patient struggling to control his torso. But within a few days of the accident, Annette said, Brad could feel his abdomen. A little while later, he could feel his hip. 
He never gave up, and always talks about what he could do rather than what he couldn’t, Annette said. That picture up top? That’s Brad -- after the accident. With his doctor’s permission, he scrambled back onto a fourwheeler, strapped on his legs with bungie cords, and got back out there. 
Brad worked construction for ASRC and CH2M Hill. He can't go back to that job, his mom said, but plans to get trained up in something involving engineering starting this fall. Most of their basic medical costs are covered or will be.

But the family needs about $50,000 for a stem-cell procedure. They don’t expect to raise it all in one fundraiser. They’re holding a taco dinner at the Elk’s Lodge on Saturday, and they’re also selling off some really cool prizes.
Johnson's parents Annette and Johnnie, with help from a remarkable array of supporters, are selling tickets for a snowmachine, a queen-size handmade quilt and a framed Fred Machetanz print, "Fishing Rights." Tickets for the snowmachine - a 2006 Skidoo Summit donated by James Bracker - are $10 each and $50 for six. Tickets for the quilt donated by Fay and Al Zimmerman are $5 and $25 for six. Tickets for the Machetanz print, with framing donated by The Gallery in Palmer, are $5 and $25 for six.

"Fishing Rights" by Fred Machetanz
Bingo Mania owner Trudy Visker is sponsoring the fundraising drawings.  The drawing will be held at Bingo Mania on Sept.1; you don't need to be present to win.  

Tickets for the fundraising drawings are on sale at the following locations: NonEssentials and Black Dog Java Joint in Palmer; Alaskan Crafters Gifts & Souvenirs and Bingo Mania in Wasilla; and Turner's Corner on Palmer-Fishhook Road. For tickets and information, call 745-3430 or 232-5180. 

The family also set up two benefit accounts:
Wells Fargo
Account Name:  Annette Johnson for the benefit of Bradley Johnson
Account Number:  9766718184

Matanuska Valley FCU
Account Name:  Annette Johnson for the benefit of Bradley Johnson
Account Number:  135887-FB

-- Zaz Hollander

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