Supporters turn out for fundraiser to support Fern Ornelas
MANCHESTER -; P.J. O';Sullivan';s was reserved for “Friends of Fern.”And judging by the size of the crowd Thursday night, Fern Ornelas has many. The bar at the corner of South Willow and Maple streets was packed with friends and supporters during a fundraiser organized to assist Ornelas and his family since he was left paralyzed with a broken neck after an altercation at Elliot Hospital';a psychiatric ward in October.Ornelas'; injuries occurred some time between an attack on a hospital security guard, a night in jail and his return to the Elliot by ambulance about 9½ hours later.
While the circumstances remain unclear and are the subject of more than one investigation, friends focused instead on what lies ahead for Ornelas and his family.
“This is phenomenal. A great response,” said Bruce Bellucci, owner of P.J. O';Sullivan';s. “Any time you';ve got 50-75 people standing out front in the cold, socializing and watching the game, you know you';ve got a good response. Everybody';s positive.”
Tickets were $15 for one or $25 for a pair and a silent auction was planned featuring memorabilia from Boston sports teams like the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins donated to the cause.
A former star pitcher and basketball player at Memorial High School, Ornelas was a big sports fan who stopped in regularly at the bar, Bellucci said.
Ornelas, 54, is listed in good condition at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was taken there on Oct. 17 with a broken neck, paralyzed from the waist down.
A fundraiser last month at Derryfield Country Club, where Ornelas golfed regularly, brought in $14,200. Organizer Tom North, a golfing buddy of Ornelas, hoped Thursday night would add another $10,000 to the fund.“People have been very generous. The donations have been incredible,” North said. “I hoped that the turnout would be good, but I never expected this.”The atmosphere seemed like a busy Thursday night, but was more a party among more than a hundred friends who have some connection to Ornelas since his childhood days in Manchester.
“This is like a neighborhood that has come together. I';m seeing people I haven';t seen since grammar school,” friend Nancy Lapierre said. “I think he would be really emotional if he saw how many people care about him.”