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Benefit raises money for 'walking miracle'

March 03, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

RIPPON, W.Va. - Music groups like the Desert Wind Band, Fast Lane and Grey Wolf got everyone in the dancing mood at the Rainbow Road Club Sunday afternoon in a benefit concert for a West Virginia State Police trooper now regarded as a "walking miracle."

About $8,000 was raised in the event for Trooper R.J. "Bobby" Elswick, who was seriously injured after being shot in the head while responding to a domestic call on Oct. 10 near Hedgesville, W.Va.

Supporters paid $5 to get into the Rainbow Road Club Sunday, and money for Elswick also was raised through donations and the auction of merchandise donated for the benefit.

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Music fans streamed onto the dance floor at the legendary country music bar along U.S. 340 near Rippon as the bands played classic country and rock 'n' roll numbers.

Then came the moment everyone was waiting for.

Elswick was expected to attend the event and arrived at the bar around 5 p.m.

Because Elswick is sensitive to noise, the music was stopped when he arrived.

Elswick was brought into the bar in a wheelchair, accompanied by his wife, Terri, and other friends.

He was greeted in the middle of the dance floor by Rick Hahn, an employee of the bar who helped coordinate the event, Chris Mitchell of radio station Q102 in Winchester, Va., and others.

Mitchell told Elswick and the crowd how important it is for people to realize how Elswick and other police officers put their lives on the line to make sure people are safe.

"We never think about how much we need these folks until it's time. We thank you sir," Mitchell said to Elswick.

Although Elswick has difficulty speaking, he thanked the crowd.

A representative from U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd's office was present to read a letter to Elswick from the senator.

"You are a remarkable person and one who I have come to admire and respect. You personify the best of West Virginia," Byrd, D-W.Va., said in the letter.

Dozens of people stood on the dance floor and around the bar and sitting areas to hear Byrd's letter and remarks by others.

Then everyone in the bar was challenged to give a donation to Elswick.

People began walking to the stage, stuffing money into a large glass jar. The pile of money later was dumped onto a table, and bar employees began counting.

Between the band performances, items ranging from a load of gravel to music CDs were auctioned.

Ron LaClair stood on the stage auctioning the items, looking for the best price for tool sets, stereo equipment, clothes, a handmade toy chest, country music and car-racing memorabilia, and a U.S. flag flown over the state capitol in honor of Elswick.

After Elswick was shot, he suffered swelling on his brain and a doctor suggested that discontinuation of life support should be considered for Elswick, state police officials said.

But Elswick began making progress and eventually was transferred to a specialized facility in Georgia, where he continued to make progress.

"He's a walking miracle," West Virginia State Police Sgt. Carl Mahood said at Sunday's benefit.

The money raised at the Rainbow Road Club event - along with thousands of dollars raised through other benefits - helps Elswick and his wife with nonmedical expenses and expenses related to his treatment.

Those include the cost of building a ramp for Elswick at his house and helping the couple pay its monthly bills. The couple also had to buy a four-wheel-drive vehicle that makes transporting Elswick easier, his wife said.

The money also helps make up for Elswick's wife's lost pay, since she has taken leave from her job to care for her husband.

"I have to be with him at all times," Terri Elswick said Sunday.

Emotions were running high among some of the people who came to the Rainbow Road Club Sunday.

Linda Dillow, of Charles Town, W.Va., who regularly goes to the local bar, said she wanted to come to the benefit after seeing it promoted.

"It's sad. It should have never happened," said Dillow, referring to the shooting of Elswick. "He was just doing his job."

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