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Jason Olson, Deseret News
Four-year-old Colton Lillie draws back for a try at the bean bag toss during a fundraiser Thursday for Bridger Hunt.

OREM — Skate shoes, a snowboard, gift certificates and baskets brimming with scrapbook supplies lined the tables at the Bonneville Park pavilion Thursday night — just another way for the community to say "Get Well, Bridger."

Some people came to the Bridger Hunt barbecue fundraiser/auction in Orem even though they didn't know the 11-year-old firework-blast victim.

On July 24, Bridger was riding his bike in his grandpa's Lehi neighborhood when a neighbor's homemade firework exploded, and parts of it ripped through the left side of Bridger's body, nearly severing his leg. Doctors have been able to keep his leg attached, but they're not sure how much use of the limb he'll regain.

Bridger should have been going into seventh grade in a few weeks; instead he's in a medically induced coma at Primary Children's Medical Center.

Rosemary Thomas and her four sons, Ian, Isaac, Gavin and Gabe, from Draper, had planned an extended-family party in Sandy on Thursday night — until they heard about Bridger and a chance to help.

They've never met the blond skateboarder, but Ian is 12, and that was enough of a connection.

"When I heard he was lifting weights to get ready for junior high, it kind of reminded me of me," Ian said with a shy grin. "I'm kind of wimpy."

"I wish I could take his spot," said 13-year-old Mikayla Murphy, her eyes filling with tears. "He wanted to be a skateboarder so bad. I don't need my legs for anything. It's so sad."

Several skate shops donated items for the silent auction, including a long board, skate board, skate shoes, hats, shirts and jeans.

"He really wanted to be a pro skateboarder," said 9-year-old Zach Jarvis, who knows Bridger through his sister, 12-year-old Jenna Jarvis, one of the event organizers. "We just wanted to help him out."

But Bridger's story extends beyond his young friends and skate buddies.

Jess Wright drove all the way down from Salt Lake to make his donation and ended up helping cook hot dogs.

"I'm an educator," he said. "Just hearing stories like this rips you apart. Any kid has a special place in my heart."

Also on hot dog duty were Ken Noland and his son Kerry. Ken's granddaughter, 12-year-old Kaeli Noland, was another driving force for the fundraiser.

Ken Noland estimated that close to 90 percent of the items at the event were donated, including more than 1,200 hot dogs and buns and items for the silent auction.

"This has been absolutely amazing," said Travis Shaw, Bridger's stepdad. "Good people have just been coming out of nowhere, giving whatever they can."

He said their family is trying to stay positive and not focus on revenge or any bitter feelings toward Craig Miller, who has been criminally charged for the firework blast. When they're with Bridger in the hospital, everything is happy, Shaw said.

The entry booth buzzed with activity as parents bought strings of pink tickets for a quarter each and doled them out to children, who exchanged them for popcorn, snowcones or even a mini-train ride.

Spread out over the Bonneville Park lawn were carnival games run by Bridger's self-proclaimed fan club.

"He (Bridger) is the type of person you can tell anything to," said 12-year-old Paige Bishop, who was in charge of the "pop-the-balloon" station. "If you had a problem, he's the one you would talk to first."

Bridger's two young uncles roamed through the crowd, wearing shirts featuring Bridger's face and their title of "uncle" underneath.

"We're like triplets 'cause we're always together," said 10-year-old McKay Stevens, the younger brother of Bridger's mother.

"He's more of a best friend than a nephew," added Connor Stevens.

The twins have visited Bridger in the hospital and said they think he's getting better.

Doctors have put Bridger into a medical coma to keep him calm. The pain and confusion when he's awake have led to high blood pressure and a racing heart, as well as thrashing that could damage the healing wounds.

Jenna Jarvis said she hoped the barbecue would raise at least $5,000 to help with the mountain of medical bills for the uninsured family. Regardless, she and others have plenty more ideas for future fundraisers.

"He's got a long road ahead of him, for being so athletic (before)," said close family friend Race Werre. "I hope (this) helps."

Orem residents Kent and Gayle Brown have never met Bridger, but they came and ate hot dogs because they have grandchildren his age, and it could have been one of them.

"Orem is a community of families," Kent Brown said. "This family has suffered a severe blow. It's a way to show a bit of solidarity."


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