Juan Diego students return to stage in honor of injured freshman

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

DRAPER — The cast of Juan Diego Catholic High School's "The Drowsy Chaperone" returned to the stage Monday for the first time since a student on the show's tech crew was critically injured in a fall Friday.

The final performance of the play was described as a "tribute opening" for injured freshman Pete Benda, school spokeswoman Molly Dumas said. Friday and Saturday shows were canceled in the wake of Benda's accident.

"It's been an emotional time," Dumas said.

Benda fell 15 to 20 feet from a lift while working on the show's set Friday afternoon, paramedics said. He sustained head injuries and suffered broken bones.

"Pete is still pretty much the same," Dumas said Monday. "He's had a little bit of response. He's still got a long way to go. He's still in really critical condition, but they're hopeful. He's showing some minor improvements."

The high school's Facebook page has provided frequent updates, reporting that Benda underwent surgery to repair his femur and is in a coma. Sunday, it was reported that the 14-year-old responded to his grandfather by opening his eye. Each entry is punctuated by a request for prayers.

A large number of students and staff gathered Friday to pray the rosary. Dumas said hundreds of students, parents and staff joined together again Sunday to pray. The group included students of Benda's mother, who is a first-grade teacher at Saint John the Baptist Elementary, which shares a campus with the middle and high schools.

"The kids here have been terrific," Dumas said.

Counselors that were made available to students were busy Monday and Principal Galey Colosimo has provided updates every morning to the students. Colosimo's nephew, 16-year-old Adam Colosimo, died July 10, more than a week after suffering an electric shock and fall. He was the first currently-enrolled Juan Diego student to die since the school opened in 1999. Dumas said a number of students have also lost parents in the past 14 months.

"It's been traumatic," she said. "There's been a lot of loss, but we have a lot of things to help us cope. Prayer is one of those things. Community is another one of those things."

The campus also provides students with a number of places to go to support one another, Dumas said. Friday, many of the drama students gathered and made 'Get well' cards for Benda.

"It's giving kids a place to go — giving them a means of action where they feel like they're helping," she said.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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