Lodi resident Kelly O’Donnell didn’t know what to do.
Her cousin, Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old San Francisco Giants fan who was brutally beaten by two men in Los Angeles Dodgers gear in the Dodgers Stadium parking lot after a Dodgers-Giants game on March 31, was in the hospital fighting for his life. She felt helpless.
“I was just sitting here for three days crying because there was nothing I could do,” O’Donnell said.
Despite overwhelming grief and worry, O’Donnell formulated a plan to help her cousin, a paramedic and father of two who lives in Los Angeles. She called a friend who works at Chili’s in Lodi and got the ball rolling for a fundraiser for Stow’s medical expenses and his family. Her efforts paid off.
Today, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., every Chili’s in Northern California, from Paso Robles to Chico, will be donating 15 percent of each bill to Stow. Patrons just have to mention Bryan Stow’s name to contribute to the fundraiser. O’Donnell is happy to have found a way to help and that Chili’s stepped up to do it.
“It is awesome,” O’Donnell said. “I think it is going to be a really great fundraiser.”
Toni Wichman, the manager at Chili’s in Lodi, was immediately on board to host the event. She wasn’t satisfied with keeping the fundraiser local, however, and quickly expanded its reach.
“This has been growing like a wildfire. Everyone is all for it. There are going to be side raffles, and people have donated items to raffle off to get extra money to donate,” Wichman said. “We are expecting a lot of people. We are hoping for a really big turnout, and I can’t wait to see how much money we can raise.”
The Chili’s fundraiser is one of many being held around the state to help Stow, who remains in critical condition in a medically induced coma at Los Angeles County-USC Hospital since the attack. Many businesses are holding similar events, and the Giants and Dodgers are also trying to help raise funds and raise awareness so that such situation never happens again.
On Monday night in San Francisco, the Giants and Dodgers dedicated their game to Stow, and players also spoke to fans about keeping the rivalry on the field without violence or hatred. O’Donnell and many of Stow’s family members were on hand for the game.
“It was really emotional. Being there with our whole family was just an amazing experience,” O’Donnell said. “Our family is very close-knit. We have almost 20 cousins, and we are just devastated that this happened to one of us. But there was so much love and hugs. I don’t even know how many times I said ‘I love you’ last night.”
Paramedics and volunteers collected donations in boots outside of AT&T Park before the game. In Los Angeles, fans dropped off cash and checks at Dodger Stadium on Monday to show their support for Stow.
O’Donnell said she can’t even comprehend the amount of people who are reaching out to help a man they have never met before. She knows the support would make Stow happy.
“We just want him to wake up and open his eyes. There are so many strangers and people everywhere who are reaching out and loving him. There is so much love,” O’Donnell said. “The kind of person that he is, he would relish this. He loves being the center of the attention. When he wakes up and sees how so many people are there for him, he is going to love it.”
Stow’s parents and sister set up a website to update people on Stow’s condition and to let people know about fundraisers at www.support4bryanstow.com. It also has information on how to donate money or send cards to Stow. A Facebook page (Pray for Bryan Stow) and Twitter account (Support 4 Stow) have also been made so people can track Stow’s status.
O’Donnell said she and her family are constantly praying for Stow, and they will also continue to try and come up with more fundraisers. They also hope that Stow’s attackers will be brought to justice. No arrests have been made despite a $150,000 reward.
“We are praying that they catch the men who did this and that the miracle comes through,” O’Donnell said. “We are praying that he wakes up.”
Contact reporter Joelle Milholm at firstname.lastname@example.org.