"Seizing" the Opportunity to Help

9 years 7 months 2 days ago June 21, 2007 Jun 21, 2007 Thursday, June 21 2007 Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:25:44 AM CDT in News

"It has special meaning to us because he decided to seize the day," choir member Keegan Huckfeldt said.

"Seize the Day" isn't just a song title. It's a story of 75 students leaving no one behind.

"This year has been a struggle for Austin because he had an accident last May, 2006, at work, an ATV accident," said Natalie Moore, Associate Music Director.

Austin Gillilan's accident broke both bones at the knee and ankle, shattered his growth plate and severed an artery. Gillilan spent more than six weeks in the hospital. He underwent more than a dozen surgeries to try to save his leg.

"I didn't know it was that bad because we had heard he was going to be okay," choir member Megan Walton said.

In the end, doctors decided to amputate.

"It was the worst pain I've ever felt in my life," Gillilan said.

"I don't know that I'll ever be able to see something quite as drastic as that because it was such a shocking feeling to see this kid who was always running around with us and messing around to see him having half a leg now," Huckfeldt said. "It's probably one of the most defining moments of my life."

This teenage athlete is no longer able to run. He's developed blisters from his temporary prosthesis and needs a permanent one. But with more than a million dollars in medical bills, his family says two insurance companies have denied his claim. So, his choir decided to come up with their own co-pay. His teacher and friends held a benefit concert, hit up businesses and sold t-shirts. In the end, the students raised $3,500 to help pay for a permanent prosthesis.

"Just because I know that he needs it, and I really care about him," choir member Marissa Seeligman said.

"Doing this for him has given Austin the confidence that there are good people out there and he will be able to make it," Moore said.

Gillilan might be able to run, thanks to his friends who seized the day. He hopes to get a permanent prosthesis in a few weeks, which will cost upwards of $20,000. To help, go to any Jefferson Bank location in Jefferson City and ask for the "Benefit Fund for Austin Gillilan."

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