Florida: Fundraiser collects $6,410 for injured Polk Deputy Adam Pennell
Polk County Deputy Adam Pennell hopes to return to work in six months to a year after fully recovering from life-threatening injuries suffered in an Oct. 29 hit-and-run accident while on duty. For now, however, standing up has been his biggest accomplishment, he said.
"He doesn't give himself enough credit for how hard he's worked," said his wife, Christin Pennell, at a Monday evening fundraiser for the family. "He wants to get back to work."
The Pennells spoke briefly to the press for the first time since the accident, which Adam Pennell said "shattered" the entire left side of his body. Those injuries include a broken pelvis, shattered hip, broken ribs, bruised lungs and shoulder damage.
"There's been good days and bad days," Adam, 25, said at the news conference in front of Il Forno Italian Restaurant in Lakeland, which hosted the fundraiser to raise money for the family's living expenses during the long recovery. "I've been luckily surrounded by a great family and friends."
Christin, also a Polk sheriff's employee, has taken a leave of absence since the accident to help with her husband's recovery. The Sheriff's Office is covering all his medical expenses, Sheriff Grady Judd said, but the couple need money to live on.
"When we hired him, he was healthy and well," Judd said. "We have a moral obligation to provide all the health care he needs to get healthy again." That health care currently includes one hour of physical therapy for three days each week, Adam said.
That's scheduled to last another three months, he added. Pennell will need many additional months to build the strength he needs for his physically demanding job. "The last thing I want is to see them worrying about finances," said Detective Nick Marolda of the Lakeland Police Department, president of the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, which has about 600 law-enforcement members.
Marolda said he organized the fundraiser after reading stories about the accident, Pennell's recovery and community efforts to help the couple in The Ledger. "I saw they were going to be in trouble financially, so they'll need some help," the detective said. "We all stick together."
And the help came by the hundreds. The Monday fundraiser attracted more than 500 people at $10 each, which included a spaghetti dinner. The event raised $6,410 for the Pennells. All the money collected went to the Pennells because Mick Pugliese, the restaurant owner, donated all the food as well as the accommodations.
"He wouldn't accept a penny," Marolda said. "He's a super-generous guy."
At the news conference, Pugliese said he hosts many similar fundraisers for local causes, including a toy drive last Saturday for children with AIDS.
"We try to give back to the community whenever we can," he said.
Pennell suffered the injuries while stopped on the median along State Road 60 east of Lake Wales giving assistance to Jessica Enchautegui-Otero, 33, of Tampa. She was killed by the driver of a blue Ford F-150 pickup who left the scene.
Four days later, deputies arrested Charles Lewis, 71, formerly of 2853 Mar Lisa Cove Road in Lake Wales. He's charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crash involving death and involving injury.
Lewis remained at the Polk County Jail on Monday awaiting trial. He faces a maximum of 35 years in prison if convicted of the charges, according to the State Attorney's Office.
The investigation found Lewis had left a Halloween party at a Lake Wales-area bar shortly before the accident after drinking some beer.
"There probably won't be a resolution of this case for a year," Judd said.
When asked whether he has forgiven Lewis for the pain he has endured, Pennell, who described himself as a man of faith, replied, "It's been a daily task, but yes."