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Couple injured in November vehicle accident receives community help with fundraiser

March 13, 2010 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated March 12, 2010 at 9:13 p.m.

Left: Chad and Chelsea Akin Ganaway outside the benefit fundraiser held in their name on Saturday. Proceeds raised went toward paying their hospital bills.

Saturday was bittersweet for Chad and Chelsea Akin Ganaway.

Five months ago, the date was planned for the couple's wedding.

"The bittersweet part is that we were supposed to be flying to Honolulu," Chad said.

But the couple spent what was originally their wedding date with a support group of friends, family, coworkers and the young gymnasts Chad coaches. They all gathered for a fundraiser to support the Ganaways - who were married in court, but still plan a formal reception - through their recovery from injuries sustained in a November car accident.

The couple crashed into a cow near Fort Stockton on Nov. 28. It had been 45 minutes before anyone responded to the wreck in rural West Texas.

The fundraiser was held at Westerner Club to help the couple pay their medical expenses, after Chad underwent three arm surgeries and as Chelsea continues to rehabilitate from brain injuries.

Fundraiser organizer Carla Nolen has known the two for about eight years. In 2005, Nolen's brother died. Chelsea supported her through the ordeal, Nolen said.

"After that she was a total support system," she said, adding that the two talked on the phone everyday as she coped with her loss.

Nolen said the turnout was excellent and drew in people from as far away as New Mexico, which goes a long way to achieving their goals.

"We're hoping to achieve a lot of things," she said. "Not only help them with their financial hardships right now as their medical bills are out of this world but also show them our support and give a sense of unity to them."

"I think we're doing that," she continued. "It's been a huge support and a huge success already."

Chad owns South Texas Elite Gymnastics and Dance in Cuero. Many people who assisted in the fundraiser included parents of gymnasts Chad coaches.

Maurice Dudley said Chad is like a third parent to her daughter Kennedy, so when she heard news of the accident, she and other parents of gymnasts worried.

"We realized, 'What are we going to do with out daughter if Chad doesn't come back?'" she said. "We put our children in their hands everyday."

Dudley, a physical therapist's assistant, remembers visiting the couple in the hospital and noting Chelsea's condition. She had sustained brain injuries from which doctors said she'd never fully recover.

"As a therapist, I walked out of there thinking, 'She's never going to be the same,'" Dudley said.

In spite of the initial bleak prognosis, Chelsea has made steady progress toward a full recovery. The couple attributes their speedy recoveries to their faith in God and a strong support group of family and friends.

"To have the community shoulder some of that burden has been extremely helpful," Chad said.

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