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600 turn out to support quadriplegic wrestler
by matthew j. dowling, star ledger staff
for the first time in more than three months since carl riccio was paralyzed during a high school wrestling match, the watchung hills regional junior was able to briefly leave the hospital tuesday to attend a fund-raiser in his honor.
the event, held in a west orange banquet facility, just a few miles from where he has been undergoing treatment at the kessler institute for rehabilitation, drew more than 600 friends and well-wishers.
"it was very overwhelming for him," said his father, peter riccio. "people are unbelievable. the event we had the other day will help us do things for him."
the $100-a-plate dinner and silent auction helped raise additional money for the carl riccio special needs trust, said denise cappuccio, who organized the event.
the trust fund was set up to help cover costs needed to care for carl throughout the rest of his life, rather than the short-term items like the new van the riccios purchased to transport carl in his wheelchair, his father said.
"we're going to get the best wheelchair for him," peter riccio said. "we're going to get the best care for him. we will go to the ends of the earth for this kid."
the large turnout at tuesday's fund-raiser "was really a credit to carl," peter riccio said. "he's a very remarkable kid. he's a special person."
carl suffered the spinal cord injury during a wrestling match at newton high school on feb. 22 when he attempted a throw maneuver and landed awkwardly on his neck with the weight of the other wrestler on top of him.
peter riccio said his son's injury has left him a quadriplegic, meaning he is completely paralyzed from the neck down. carl's family has already started investing considerable funds preparing for him to return to his warren township home.
as word of carl's injury spread through the close-knit wrestling community, letters and e-mails of support poured in. a web site (www.carlricciotrust.com) was quickly established to give well-wishers a central place to post messages to carl and donate to his long-term care fund.
hundreds of messages from wrestlers, coaches, friends and relatives around the country have been posted on the site as people continue to forward carl's story through the internet.
carl had a 26-0 record and was ranked seventh in the state in the 189-pound weight class when he suffered the injury. he had won three consecutive somerset county wrestling championships for watchung hills regional. carl was also an accomplished baseball player.
cappuccio said many of the donations have been coming through the web site, but the event on tuesday night was a huge help. a silent auction featured 117 different packages of items that were donated, including bruce springsteen tickets, numerous golf packages, ski trips, continental airlines tickets, and even a director's chair from the set of "the sopranos" donated by hbo, she said.
cappuccio stressed, however, that the fund-raising effort is far from over. she said much more money will be needed for carl's long-term care. those who wish to contribute to the carl riccio special needs fund can send checks to: p.o. box 4422, warren, n.j. 07059.