A dinner and silent auction hosted by the Petaluma Elks Club will be held April 19 in honor of Jazzlin Mejia, a Cherry Valley kindergarten student who suffered crippling injuries after a head-on crash last fall.
On Oct. 29, alleged drunk driver Damodar Chandradas, 25, veered into oncoming traffic and crashed his Jaguar straight into the Toyota Corolla Jazzlin's father was driving. Gustavo Mejia, 26, broke both of his legs, and 5-year-old Jazzlin suffered severe neck and spine injuries, which left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Three days following the accident, Jazzlin underwent a spinal fusion and today remains in a wheelchair.
"We are very blessed to still have Jazz here in this world with us," Nannette Andrade, Jazzlin's mother, wrote in an email. "She has great spirits, and my family and I only hope that she gets better as times goes by. She has accepted that her body is different and that she has to re-learn things, but she is glad to be alive."
After an intensive therapy regimen at the Oakland Children's Hospital, Jazzlin has returned to Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley, with the help of an aide. Andrade said the school and its students have been very supportive.
According to the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office, Chandradas faces multiple felony charges related to the crash, and is still in custody. A jury trial is set for May 9.
Several community fundraisers have been held since the accident occurred to help cover Jazzlin's medical expenses. The nonprofit HelpHOPELive is helping to raise funds for injury-related expenses such as co-pays, rehab therapy, home modifications and the purchase of a modified vehicle.
The April 19 dinner and silent auction at the Petaluma Elks Club will help fund future therapy sessions for Jazzlin that are not covered by insurance. Jazzlin is currently receiving therapy once a week through California Children's services, but Andrade said it's "not enough to improve anything."
"These fundraisers are extremely important for us, because we don't know what the future holds for Jazz," Andrade wrote. "We only hope to help her in any way we can and make more (people) aware of people like Jazzlin."
(Allison Jarrell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)