An outpouring of support during a fundraising dinner for critically injured Point Loma High School graduate Will Barton on Nov. 23 raised thousands of dollars to help his family offset medical costs, as Barton himself made a major stride during his recovery from multiple gunshot wounds.
Nearly 300 people attended a taco dinner fundraiser at St. Agnes Parish Hall that night. After paying $10 each for dinner, the crowd swarmed over dozens of silent-auction items and purchased hundreds of raffle tickets toward other merchandise and services.
Barton, who was shot three times in the head by a deranged 40-year-old former firefighter on Oct. 29, has fought back with consistent, small but dramatic improvements daily – much to the relief of family, friends and supporters.
“We all thought he was going to die,” said Corey Husted, Barton’s close friend and fellow PLHS class of 2010 member.
Instead, Barton has improved to the point he is asking for one of his favorite treats: a frosty from Wendy’s. He has also begged for coffee, able to sense the aroma when brought into his room by visitors. But ingesting regular food remains a distant goal.
For now, Barton’s communication is restricted to faint whispering as doctors work to restore his vocal chords and other vital systems following crucial surgery to repair his skull and other procedures.
After two weeks in Scripps Mercy Hospital’s intensive-care unit and another week of hospital care, Barton has advanced to the point he is beginning physical therapy and was moved last week to a temporary physical-therapy facility.
Here, Barton will work to build his strength before embarking on more strenuous therapy.
“They want him to be capable of doing three hours a day of physical therapy,” said Barton’s father, also named Will, during the fundraiser.
Well-wishers hovered around the elder Barton and Will’s mother, Marie Najera, who both attended the event and thanked everyone for their help.
Event organizer Rhonda Pitta and a group of tireless volunteers spent days securing donated food items, silent auction and raffle items, all of which became much easier when Barton’s story was first brought to the community’s attention in an exclusive front-page story in the Nov. 15 Peninsula Beacon.
“When the Beacon story came out,” Pitta told the crowd, “my phone started ringing day and night and donations soared.”
Those donations included stays at local hotels and a spectacular Colorado condo, a custom surfboard, restaurant gift certificates up to $250 and other items. Dozens of items filled tables on both sides of the lengthy church hall and 50 additional items have been reserved for an upcoming January event, Pitta said.
Buyers were also generous, bidding all items well past their stated value. And one supporter, while checking out with about $300 in purchases, handed over a check for $500. Others handed checks to Pitta and other organizers throughout the night.
Pitta said every cent collected went to Barton’s fund, and all meal items were donated.
Hodad’s donated all the meats, while Stump’s Market offered all other meal components. And a volunteer chef from the recently opened Burlap Restaurant in Del Mar played a huge role in the event, Pitta said.
Andrew Bent, a 2003 Pointer alum, brought barrels of avocados and specialty produce from Burlap, along with a $100 certificate to sister restaurant Gabardine in Point Loma.
PLHS alumni director Kim Jessop was also credited for informing thousands of former Pointers about the event.
The next fundraising event is set for Saturday, Jan. 19 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Humphreys on Shelter Island. Music will be performed by local band Temple of the Dads and two other groups to be announced.
Contributions are still being collected for the “Friends of Will Barton Fund” at Chase Bank, 1740 Rosecrans St., San Diego, 92106.
Items for a future silent auction and raffles are still being sought. Contact Rhonda Pitta: 959 Temple St., San Diego, 92106; (619) 248-1607; firstname.lastname@example.org.
To follow Barton’s recovery on the family’s blog, visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/willbarton/journal. Note: donations made to “Caring Bridge” do not go to offset Barton’s medical expenses.