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Danny Cox, the Petaluma teenager paralyzed in a diving accident three weeks ago, will have almost all of his estimated $400,000 in medical and rehabilitation bills covered by insurance.

But there could be another $100,000 in expenses that need to be paid, so friends and supporters are organizing a variety of fund-raising events to bridge the gap.

"The family is going to need a lot of money. I'm trying to raise as much as I can," said Matt Menard, a firefighter who lives two floors above Graffiti, the Petaluma restaurant owned by Cox's family.

Menard has organized a benefit golf tournament, while others are staging a fund-raising football game with alumni from Casa Grande High School and the injured athlete's alma mater, Petaluma High.

Menard feels a special kinship with Cox, who was planning to pursue a career in firefighting.

The 18-year-old former standout track athlete was about to begin fire science classes at Santa Rosa Junior College when he broke his neck at Lake Tahoe on Aug. 10.

Cox ran into the lake and dove into shallow water, but the exact cause of his spinal injury is not known.

His mother, Maureen McGowan, said her son had dislocated his shoulder six days prior and doctors believe it may have contributed to weakness in his neck.

"It was very windy," when he dove into the water, she said. "There were large (boat) wakes, like they were sucking the water out and in."

Most puzzling, she said, was that there were "zero contusions on his head and skull, no mark of a bump," of where he would have struck the lake bottom.

Cox spent 10 days in the intensive care unit of a Reno hospital before being transferred to the Kaiser Permanente spinal rehabilitation center in Vallejo. He has begun an arduous road back to an uncertain recovery.

The physical therapy is intended to help him regain some measure of independence. The reality is setting in for the formerly active young man, who essentially remains paralyzed from his chest down.

"He has ups and downs. He went into a pretty bad low the last few days," his mother said Monday.

Cox's progress can be seen in frequent videos and updates posted on You Tube and on his website, www.dannycox707.com.

Prior to his accident, he was a fan of social networking sites like Facebook. He remains open and candid in the frequent public updates he makes from his hospital bed and wheelchair.

One day, Cox talked about getting a haircut. "That was nice," he said, before writing about drinking Snapple and hacking into the Internet.

He mentioned getting a wheelchair, but being in trouble for speeding in the hallway:

"I would run into people....It's funny. But they didn't think it was funny."

At other times, he talked about the difficulty of being so helpless that others have to bathe him.

And then, last weekend, his spirit sank to new lows.

"It's just another day. Not much has changed. Still miserable. Nothing really happened today," he said in a very brief posting.

For his family, it's hour-by-hour, day-to-day.

"There will be ups and downs. I see the progress, even though he doesn't," said his mother. "I wish I could take his place. I could run a restaurant from a wheelchair."

Danny's sister, Emily Cox, 24, a massage therapist with a degree in holistic health and nutrition, has been at his side full time in the hospital and rehab center.

Another sister, Sophia Cox, 21, has stayed in Petaluma helping to watch over his half-brothers, Charlie McGowan, 8, and Jack McGowan, 1.

Both his father, Chris Cox, and his step-father, Mark McGowan, are part of a strong family support system.

What remains are some of the financial gaps, especially when Cox gets out of the rehabilitation facility, as early as Oct. 1.

Expenses not covered by medical insurance include a $38,000 specialized wheelchair that allows him to lean without tipping over; an $8,000 mattress designed to avoid bed sores; and a special van for driving him around.

The Danny Cox Rehabilitation Fund at First Community Bank in Petaluma has collected almost $16,000 in donations, according to Maureen McGowan.

Menard said a benefit tournament will go forward if enough golfers sign up for the Oct. 22 event at Rooster Run Golf Course in Petaluma.

And a Calistoga man, Ed Hayman, is staging a full contact football game on Oct. 16 between alumni of Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools. Hayman, who can be reached at 481-2015, said he is trying to enlist enough players for the game.

Also on tap is an auction at the annual Carousel Fund concert on Oct. 2 at the Petaluma Veterans building, which helps ill and catastrophically injured children.

Acts that include Jefferson Starship, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Tommy Smothers will perform. Items such as a pair of autographed Muhammad Ali boxing gloves will be put up for auction specifically to benefit Cox.

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