Restaurant hosts carnival for victim of ocean swim accident

By on June 8, 2011

By: ANDREA GILLHOOLLEY Review Correspondent, Staff Writer



A carnival to benefit Jim Sebest, a local resident left paralyzed from a tragic accident while swimming with his family at the beach, will be held on June 12 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Hill Top Inn, 415 E. Main St., Ephrata. Shown above, in a previous photo, are Jim Sebest, his wife Andi, and his children, Addison and Olivia.A carnival to benefit Jim Sebest, a local resident left paralyzed from a tragic accident while swimming with his family at the beach, will be held on June 12 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Hill Top Inn, 415 E. Main St., Ephrata. Shown above, in a previous photo, are Jim Sebest, his wife Andi, and his children, Addison and Olivia.

Thursday, Aug. 26.

That’s the day life as Jim Sebest knew it would change, because what was supposed to be a normal family vacation took a devastating turn when Sebest went into the ocean at Bethany Beach in Delaware.

No one knows for sure how Sebest fractured vertebrae in his neck, but he may have hit his head on the sand when he dove into a wave.

His wife Andi pulled him from the ocean and lifeguards immediately began CPR until an ambulance arrived and took him to Beebe Medical Center where, luckily, a CAT scan revealed normal brain function. However, Sebest was then flown by helicopter to Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia where he underwent an eight-hour surgery the next day.

The injury left Sebest paralyzed from the shoulders down and he is unable to breathe on his own. Since then, Sebest has spent most of his time in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. After emergency surgery, he spent one month in an intensive care unit and then was transferred to a spinal cord injury facility in Philadelphia where he then spent five months doing intense physical and respiratory therapy. In February he was discharged and moved into a facility in Mechanicsburg until he was released May 18. Because of a serious infection, he had to go to Lancaster General Hospital the next day where he’s expected to stay for the next three weeks.

What Sebest wants more than anything is to breathe independently from the ventilator and be with his wife and two children, Addison and Olivia. Among the priorities to regain his life back is obtaining a functional electronic stimulation bike that helps reverse muscle atrophy and reduce muscle spasms while increasing the range of motion and circulation.

And that’s where Team Screaming Eagles, a team running in the Philadelphia triathlon later this month, comes in.

Jon Speros, owner of the Hill Top Inn, Main Street, Ephrata, is a member of the 60-person team and said they will raise funds for the National Transplant and Catastrophic Injury Fund (NTAF), a nonprofit foundation that will specifically help Sebest and his family with ongoing medical expenses. The bike Sebest needs is $11,000, and while people can send monetary donations online or by check or cash, Speros thought of a more creative way to help the family.

Speros will host a carnival from 1 to 5 p.m. on June 12 at the Hill Top Inn, 415 E. Main St., Ephrata. A Chinese auction will take place inside the restaurant while the food and activities will take place outside the restaurant. Activities include a bouncing castle, dunk tank, softball throw, target shooting, face painting and karaoke. Hamburgers, hot dogs, pork barbecue, spanakopita, baklava and pecan pies will be served. Among the auction items included will be baked goods in a Longaberger basket and tickets to a Lancaster Barnstormers game. The restaurant will be closed; however, people buying food at the carnival can eat inside.

For more information on Jim Sebest, visit caringbridge.org/visit/JimSebest

"My whole idea was having a facility where I could do a big event to raise a lot of money hopefully," Speros said. "I decided to hold something at the restaurant. I wanted to do something different; to do something outside. Jim has young kids of his own so I thought it would be neat to have a mini-carnival."

The effort to help Sebest means a lot to Molly McCoy, also a triathlon team member who knew Sebest through her brothers at Manheim Township High School. When Sebest was in rehab in Philadelphia, McCoy, who lives nearby, would visit him to offer support.

"I was shocked and saddened of course," McCoy said when she found out about his accident. "Someone with such a big spirit was hit with such a tragedy. I felt terribly for him and his wife, Andi, and their kids. I wanted to do anything that I could to help."

She witnessed his true spirit when he tried to slowly wean off the ventilator for just a few moments at a time.

"I remember seeing him try weaning off of it and I just came home and cried. I was just so moved by his courage," McCoy said.

That’s when she brought his story to the rest of the team.

Now doctors want Sebest to get his infection under control so he can continue making progress.

"The support of all of our friends and family, and so many people in the community has just been incredible," said Sebest’s brother-in-law, Doug Welch, via e-mail. "People we don’t even know have helped — and are still helping — to raise funds, walk the dog, cook meals, help with yard work and pick up the kids after school. The tremendous outpouring has been simply overwhelming and our family is truly thankful for all the help."

If anyone in the community would like to make a contribution, there are several different ways to do so:

tOnline donations: Go directly to the NTAF website (NTAFund.org). On the home page in the upper right hand corner, there is a section entitled "find a patient." Enter the name "Jim Sebest" and click "find." On the next screen, click "contribute now." To mark as a TSE donation, enter "TSE-participant’s name" on address line #2.

t Donations by check: Checks should be made payable to: NTAF Mid-Atlantic Spinal Cord Injury Fund and can be mailed to the address listed on the website. (In the memo section on the check, write "In honor of Jim Sebest."

tCash donations: Give any cash donations to Deb Gilburg or Molly McCoy on the day of the triathlon.

To learn more about Jim Sebest and his story of courage and resilience, visit caringbridge.org/visit/jimsebest. More SEBEST, page A23

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