DOBSON — A convoy of Surry County school officials visited the home of a student who was recently injured in a hit-and-run accident and presented the family with a check to help with medical expenses.
Junior Gonzalez, a 15-year-old freshmen at Surry Central High School, was critically injured on Feb. 25 after a driver of what police described as a white, newer model SUV plowed into a group of kids waiting for the bus on East Atkins Road and fled the scene.
Gonzalez’s injuries required a hospital stay and several surgeries.
Recovering at home and on the mend, the teen revisited the hospital Wednesday for a procedure and will have to return for more follow-ups.
Three schools have held fundraisers over the past week to both help the family deal with the financial impact of the hit-and-run and to demonstrate solidarity for one of their own.
“The main thing is you know there are lots of people caring for you and thinking about you,” Surry Central Principal Celia Hodges said to Gonzalez during the visit Thursday. “You are surrounded by people who really love you.”
“It makes me feel really proud I have this support,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t really have anything to say except thank you.”
Bill Goins, principal of Central Middle School, handed the teen a check with the proceeds from “Play for Junior Day.”
Students at the middle school are not typically allowed to use electronic devices during the school day. For a $1 donation, students were allowed to use their hand-held devices during the lunch period on Friday, March 4.
With only about 600 students enrolled in the school, the event brought in $1,400.
Shelley Higgins, a health and physical education teacher who helped organize the fundraiser, accompanied the administrators to deliver the check.
“It’s very hard to see one of my former students like this,” she said. “I loved this kid like he was my own. It broke my heart when I found out who it was in the accident. I’m glad he’s well.”
More money is on the way to the family.
Dobson Elementary School, where Gonzalez attended and his sister, Daisy, is a student, held “Color DES Red for Junior Day.”
Students, staff and faculty who participated wore red t-shirts to school that day and brought in enough spare change to collect $1,200.
Hodges said Surry Central staff and faculty put together a $400 “love offering” for the student and a student-led t-shirt sale at the school has so far raised more than $600.
That effort began with Jayne Gonzalez, a Surry Early College sophomore who designed the t-shirts and started selling them online at Booster.com.
The shirts are printed with the phrase “My goal is to stay strong for Junior” on the front and on the back “#TEAMJUNIOR” is printed underneath a Bible verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ – Philipians 4:13.’”
A few of Gonzalez’s friends heard about the t-shirts and asked if they help sell them at school.
“We wanted to help with his family’s medical expenses,” said Ixcela Hernandez, a senior who had visited Gonzalez in the hospital after the accident.
“It got to all of us,” she said. “It’s scary to think that something that big could happen in a county so small. It was so unexpected.”
Hernandez, Sofia Valle and Jiselle Cortes, who are all involved with the school’s interact club, have been selling the shirts for $10 a piece during smart lunch since Friday, March 4.
The shirts cost $6.50 to make and the rest goes to the Gonzalez family.
“We’ve sold 64 so far,” Cortes said, adding that they’ve also collected donations.
“It was a tragic moment,” Cortes said about the accident. “There’s many positive things coming out of this situation. It lets you know people from the school, town and county have your back. They’re here for you.”
In addition to the schools’ efforts, an ongoing GoFundMe.com campaign has raised about $630.
Surry Central soccer coach and Spanish language instructor Blake Roth visited the Gonzalez home with the administrators.
“It’s a good family,” said Roth, who coached Gonzalez during the fall soccer season and the teen’s older brother when he was a student.
“You can’t give enough credit to Junior and the positivity he’s shown. For a 15-year-old to go through this I can’t imagine.”
Roth interpreted for the teen’s Spanish speaking parents during the visit.
Though Junior’s health continues to improve, Felipe Gonzalez said his son struggles with feeling self-conscious about the lacerations on his face and was initially reluctant to talk to reporters and television station representatives who showed up with cameras for the check presentation.
“We said in the long run, this process of talking to people will help you work through this,” he said.
Felipe Gonzalez said he shared with his son “real life examples,” to help him, such as a soccer injury that fractured bones near his eye and left scars.
“I had to live with it and move forward,” he said.
Dealing with the aftermath of the accident has been understandably tough on the family, but there have been bright spots.
“They’ve all just been angels,” his father said about the schools, community and medical care at Wake Forest Medical Center. “I get chill bumps when I think how the community is coming together and what we have been through has really helped us become closer as a family.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.