'Glue me back together': Online pleas to aid parade victims
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Friends and families of the roughly 60 people, including many children, hit by an SUV that sped through a Christmas parade in a suburban Milwaukee downtown say many suffered life-threatening injuries.
One of them, 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, died on Tuesday, his parents announced on his GoFundMe page. His brother, 12-year-old Tucker Sparks, was going to be discharged from the hospital.
The boys — among three sets of siblings hospitalized after being struck by the SUV — were marching with their baseball team when they were hit.
Tucker has head injuries but is recovering and will be sent home, according to Alyssa Albro, the niece of the boys’ parents, Aaron and Sheri Sparks. Jackson had suffered a more serious brain injury.
“The entire family is devastated,” Albro wrote.
A young girl who is a member of a dance troupe struck by the SUV, a moment captured on cellphone video, woke up Monday and told doctors, “just glue me back together,” according to her GoFundMe fundraising page organized by a family friend.
“No child or parent should have to endure this amount pain and suffering," the girl's mother, Amber Konhke, posted Tuesday afternoon.
The fundraising pleas detail the extent of some of the injuries from the incident that has left six people dead so far and more than 60 hurt. The suspect, Darrell Brooks Jr., was charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. A sixth count for the death of Jackson Sparks, which happened after the complaint was drawn up, will be added, according to Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper.
Konhke's daughter Jessalyn is shown smiling directly at the camera on one GoFundMe page, wearing a white Santa hat and holding matching pompoms. She is standing alongside other girls on the Waukesha Xtreme Dance team in a picture taken moments before she was struck.
Jessalyn is “fighting for her life,” according to the fundraising account established by family friend Oscar Luna. She lost a kidney, broke her pelvis and has damage to her liver and lungs, Luna said.
“This holiday season will be a brutal one for them,” he said of their family.
In an update posted Tuesday morning, Luna wrote that she had woken up briefly Monday.
“She is not fully aware of the severity of her injuries but managed to say, ‘just glue me back together,’” he wrote. “Only a child could reference themselves as a little doll in this situation.”
Julia, who was also marching with her dance team and whose last name also isn't given, “is in the fight for her life,” suffering from brain trauma after being hit, her fundraising page established by family friend Jen McCarthy says.
“Everyone that knows this little girl knows what joy she brings to the world,” the post says. “She has a heart of gold, a smile that can light up the room and is loved by so many.”
Aidan Laughrin, a senior at Waukesha South High School, was hit while performing with the marching band, suffering fractured ribs, according to an online fundraiser.
The family is “tough but the road ahead is going to be tough too, both physically and emotionally,” the organizer posted.
Another band member, saxophonist Tyler Pudleiner, also was struck and has undergone two surgeries since Sunday. "He has a long road to recovery,” wrote Joane Chmiel, one of two people raising money to help Pudleiner.
Tamara Rosentreter was doing what she loved, entertaining the crowd as part of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, when she was struck by the SUV that took the lives of three of her fellow dancers.
The mother of four and grandmother of one was the leader of the troupe, according to an online fundraiser seeking help for Rosentreter’s recovery. The organizer posted a message from Rosentreter, who said “I’m still here. Lots of pain, stitches, broken bones and lots of bumps and bruises. Love you ALL.”
She described how a woman prayed for her at the scene “to help give me peace and comfort” and how another kept her warm with a blanket.
“This tragedy is so hard to wrap my head around,” she said, saying her “heart aches” for the victims and their families, those who witnessed the devastation and “for my teammates and their families who are my family.”
Lucero Isabel Perales says several family members were a part of the parade and were struck by the SUV. That includes a cousin with skull fractures who is in a coma, an uncle who underwent six hours of surgery for a broken leg and another cousin with bruises all over her body.
“This is a very hard time for all of us, it was something so unexpected,” Isabel Perales wrote.
Nearly $900,000 had been raised by Tuesday evening for the 22 GoFundMe-verified pages for parade victims. Another community fund for victims had raised more than $600,000 by Tuesday morning, said Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly. The Waukesha County Community Foundation said that fund had grown to more than $916,000 by Tuesday afternoon.
“There’s so much outpouring of support,” Reilly said. “It warms your heart to know that people are saying, ‘We support your community, we feel for you.’”
This story has corrected the spelling of Rosentreter on second references.
Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this report from Milwaukee. Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan.
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