East Bay holds fundraiser for Queena
East Bay High School's Student Government Association is preparing the course once again for 5K4Q, a running fundraiser to help defray medical treatment for a former student brutally attacked outside the Bloomingdale Regional Library five years ago.
The event was first held last year and raised $4,300 to help pay for therapy and other treatment for Queena, now 23, whose first name became public last week when her family posted a website and Facebook page to help bring more attention to her cause. Students say they hope to surpass that amount with this year's event.
The race starts at 8 a.m. on May 18 at E.G. Simmons Park in Ruskin.
Queena was a senior at East Bay High in 2008 and about to graduate and attend the University of Florida on a full scholarship. But brain injuries from the attack, which took place as she was returning library books, left her unable to walk, talk, see or eat on her own. Kendrick Morris, is now serving 65 years in prison for the attack on her and for the rape of a daycare worker in 2007.
Queena attends various types of therapy sessions five days a week as part of her family's efforts to strengthen her. While Medicaid pays for a portion of her expenses, thousands more are needed every week to pay for her therapy, her family says. They depend on donations to keep the therapy going.
“All registration fees and sponsor donations go to Queena,” and to pay for race medals and T-shirts, said Paula MacDonald, whose daughter, Kendall MacDonald, went to school with Queena and helped organize the first event.
Paula MacDonald helped set up the website for Queena, which was donated by Full Media out of Gainesville, Georgia.
“A lot of the kids that are at East Bay now had no direct knowledge of what happened to Queena,” MacDonald said. “She visited the school last year and again this year and met with members of student government. The student government has really taken her on as a class project.”
The project is really special for the students, said student government President Michelle Berland.
“We just wanted to help her. We knew funds were getting low for her and her family and her medical costs were getting higher,” Berland said. “Brain stimulation therapy is a lot of money. We're not going to be able to pay for all of it, but we can definitely make a contribution.”
Queena was also in student government, so when Kendall MacDonald and Berland started talking about a fundraiser for her, it just made sense, Berland said.
“When you're one of us, you're one of us forever,” she said, “So that really made it even more important to us.”
Student government sponsor Remy Ferrario taught Queena for two years while she was at East Bay.
“It's beyond words, just amazing to be part of this,” he said. “We've always thought of what we could do to help her out and the students came forward.”
The race has several major sponsors, including the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center, Kids R Kids SouthShore and Brandon Regional Hospital. More sponsors are needed, but the deadline has passed to include them on race T-shirts, Berland said. Their names will still be included on banners the day of the event.
In all, 27 student government volunteers and several from East Bay's National Honor Society will coordinate race day.
For more information, visit www.joinqueena.com or visit her facebook page at www.facebook.com/JoinQUEENA.