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Benefit raises $12K for Harpswell girl hurt in ski accident

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Benefit raises $12K for Harpswell girl hurt in ski accident

HARPSWELL — More than two weeks after a near-fatal skiing accident, a 6-year-old girl is out of intensive care and beginning to show signs of recovery.

"She's feeding herself. She loves ice cream. She does not like apple sauce. She knows the difference and that's very important," Jessica Walker's aunt, Liz Simpson, said April 5.

Walker suffered three skull fractures and brain trauma when she crashed head first into a tree on March 25 while skiing with her family at Sugarloaf Mountain.

A helmet saved her life, Simpson said.

As of Tuesday, Walker's feeding tube had been removed, according to a recent update from her Facebook support page, and she has been showing other signs of progress.

Simpson said while Walker is not yet talking, she has found other ways of communicating. She also likes riding around the hospital in her wheelchair, and enjoys a good laugh, too.

Community comes together

Walker has not only had the support of her family, which spends hours with her every day at Maine Medical Center in Portland, but a large part of Harpswell, too.

More than 400 people gathered at Harpswell Community School on April 5 for a benefit dinner and silent auction to support the Walker family's expenses.

"Everyone's prayers and well wishes are giving us the strength to get through this," Simpson said.

The benefit raised $12,000, Simpson said.

The family has also been accepting donations through the Fishing Families for Harpswell group, which helped organize the fundraiser. The silent auction, which began at Friday's dinner, concludes online at the end of the week.

Some of the auction's donated items include a 13-foot kayak, an 18-foot canoe, two iPads, an autographed football jersey, a stay at a fishing camp and other items.

"It's incredibly humbling," Lori Hodell, one of the event's organizers, said of the event's success. "It's really a testament to our community and town."

Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Elinor Multer was present, along with several other town officials. She attributed Harpswell's tight community, in part, to its town meeting form of government.

"Whatever happens in this town is a joint concern," Multer said. "It's what I like about living in Maine."

'This will come full circle'

While Walker makes her recovery, her family is planning to send a larger message: helmets save lives.

Simpson said there are no details, but the Walker family hopes to make an impact on other families.

"We need to get the word out that people need to wear a helmet," Simpson said. "... This will come full circle."

For continuing updates on Walker's recovery, follow her Facebook support page at www.facebook.com/JessicaGraceWalkerRoadToRecovery.

Fishing Families for Harpswell is accepting donations on the Walker family's behalf at P.O. Box 465, Harpswell, ME 04079.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.