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Organizers were excited about the turnout at Saturday’s benefit pancake breakfast and are well on their way to providing aid to Cochranton resident Missy O’Donnell, who was left partially paralyzed after a car accident in February.

According to Don Battin, one of the main organizers, more than 400 people attended the event at Cochranton Community Church. Near the start of the breakfast, they had to set up more chairs, since about 200 were eating at that moment.

The fundraiser was the first of four events planned to help make the O’Donnell family’s home become handicapped-accessible for Missy, whose car went out of control on black ice and wrecked on Feb. 22.

A total count of money raised has not yet been tabulated.

The funds will go toward completing a handicapped-accessible renovation of the bottom floor of the O’Donnell’s split-level home at an estimated cost of $50,000. If more funds are able to be raised, they will go toward the purchase of a used handicapped-accessible van. A power wheelchair will be covered through O’Donnell’s insurance.

Don Battin and his wife, Jill, already have complete architectural drawings of the renovations. They also have a number of skilled tradesmen — which keeps growing by the day — lined up to volunteer time. Now, it’s all about gathering more funds to put the renovations into action.

The Battins felt that spearheading the fundraisers was the least they could do to help out.

“They’re friends of ours as well as the community. They are involved in the community, so a lot people know them,” Don said about the O’Donnell family, which includes her husband, Dan, and two teenagers. “We just wanted to help out because their house really wasn’t accessible.”

The O’Donnells declined to speak for publication, but have been very grateful for all the volunteered time and donations.

Among the numerous volunteers taking part in Saturday’s event was Emmy Arnett, who became partially paralyzed during a rodeo event in May 2001. She said that the first two years after her accident were the most trying times, but support from family and friends kept her positive.

She knows how important it was to receive that support.

“This nice thing I think that will help (Missy) is she has wonderful family and friends, as all of us did and have,” Arnett said. “She’ll definitely need all that. The support group is the biggest thing I think that will help her in the long run. When she does come home, it’s like starting all over again because it’s an entirely new environment.”

Arnett was a top bull rider who was featured in Sports Illustrated before she was thrown from a bull during an event. Undeterred by the disability, she’s in the midst of her second elected term as Crawford County’s prothonotary.

“You can definitely live a normal life,” Arnett said. “There’s just a lot more challenges in life, unfortunately.”

Darcy McKinley, who is a teacher at Sonlight Child Learning Center in Cochranton, was paralyzed after a four-wheeler accident just two months before Arnett. She tries to live her life as if it didn’t happen. Also, staying busy keeps her mind off it.

“Talking with another person helps,” McKinley said. “You get used to a different lifestyle. You just get up and go.”

To Arnett, seeing the community come together and support O’Donnell is inspirational. She’s talked to Missy since the accident and hopes she can help her remain positive.

“You make the best of what you’re given and you play the cards that you’re dealt, unfortunately,” Arnett said. “I just wake up every day and be thankful that you have another day, more or less.”

Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at dwalk@meadvilletribune.com.

You can help

Several fundraising events have been planned to aid community volunteers who are working to make the O’Donnell family’s Cochranton-area home handicapped accessible for Missy, who was left partially paralyzed after a Feburary vehicle crash.

Donations are also being accepted and checks can be made out to the Missy O’Donnell Fund and sent to Cochranton Community Church, PO Box 531, Cochranton, Pa. 16314.

Fundraising events are:

April 21 — Hoss’ Steak and Sea House in Meadville will donate a portion of the proceeds from meals purchased by those handing in a special card.

May 6 — Benefit luncheon at the Iroquois Club, Conneaut Lake.

May 18 — Spaghetti dinner at the Methodist church in Cochranton.

-More information on the fundraising events, donations or other ways to help: Contact Don or Jill Battin at donbattin@zoominternet.net or 425-3774.

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