More than 1,400 people turned out to welcome home Danny Cox, raise $250,000 million for sick children and listen to three of the top bands from the San Francisco music scene of the 1960s and '70s.
It was the 23rd annual Carousel Fund Casino Night, and the highlight for many was the first public appearance of Cox, the 18-year-old Petaluma teen who was paralyzed in a diving accident in August and has been undergoing rehabilitation at a facility in Vallejo.
Cox came onstage in his wheelchair to a standing ovation and the presentation of a proclamation from Mayor Pamela Torliatt.
"When I went to pick him up on Saturday, he was excited, but when he got to the event, he was a little overwhelmed by all the people," said his mother, Maureen McGowan. "He was very happy to be there, though, and glad that a lot of his friends were volunteering to help."
The evening wound up with performances by Jefferson Starship, featuring Paul Kantner and Marty Balin; Big Brother and the Holding Company; and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Comedian Tommy Smothers also appeared, doing a comedy routine that included some yo-yo tricks.
Cohen said that the event, held at the Petaluma Veterans Building, raised more than $250,000 through the live and silent auctions, gaming tables, drink sales and donations. The event was bigger this year, Cohen said, because Cox's story had generated more interest from donors. Some $50,000 was raised specifically to help with Cox's expenses that aren't covered by insurance, including remodeling of his bathroom to make it accessible, installing a wheelchair lift, widening doorways and replacing fixtures.
"We were pleased to see the community rise to the occasion, Cohen said. "It was just heartwarming.
"For me, it was a magical evening filled with so much generosity, joy, gratitude, fun and especially hope for so many families in Petaluma who are struggling to keep their children alive," he added.
The Carousel Fund is an all-volunteer organization whose mission is to raise funds to help families pay for the medical expenses of children with catastrophic illnesses or injuries.
Cox returned to the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Facility in Vallejo after the event and will continue to work with physical therapists until he moved back home in about two weeks.
"Danny's doing really well," his mother said. "He's able to do more with his arms now. He doesn't have any more feeling coming back — I was hoping for more of a return of his functions — but he's being taught to use what he can.
"He is very grateful for the help."
Several benefit events are scheduled over the next few weeks, including a Pyramid Party at Heritage Salvage on Saturday, Oct. 9 from noon to 5 p.m.; a football game between alumni of Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools on Oct. 16; and a golf tournament at Rooster Run Golf Course on Oct. 22.
For more information and updates about Danny Cox, visit www.dannycox707.com.
(Contact Chris Samson at email@example.com. Dan Johnson contributed to this story.)