Dannevirke: Friends rally to raise funds for teen crash survivor

By Christine McKay

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Janine Withey (left) and Annette Kendall, two of the trustees for Levi Asken. Photo/Christine McKay
Janine Withey (left) and Annette Kendall, two of the trustees for Levi Asken. Photo/Christine McKay

Accident victim Levi Asken is out of a coma, but with a major brain trauma, life will never be the same for the 18-year-old Dannevirke teenager.

Levi suffered horrific injuries following a car accident on Top Grass Rd on June 6 and will require life-long assistance, friend Annette Kendall said.

"It's nothing short of a miracle Levi survived," she said. "Doctors, emergency staff and family were concerned he wouldn't even make it through that first night.

"He's now been transferred out of Wellington Hospital's intensive care unit and is in the neurology ward, but no matter what, he has to learn to walk, talk and eat again and at 18, his teenage years are gone.

"But when you are sitting by his bed willing him to live, your thoughts turn to how can I help?"

With Levi only able to give people a slight thumbs up, Annette said she realised help would be needed over and above what ACC offers.

"This kid is going to need a lot of help and it would be great if we can raise money to go into a trust to provide some of the nice things in life for him," she said.

"Levi's already proved he's a real fighter to have survived his injuries. Although he's out of a coma, he's not talking and it could be 18 months or two years before the full extent of his brain damage is known. We want to raise money to help him learn to do things again, things we all take for granted every day."

Annette said she's spoken with Levi's parents, Jamie and Joanne, who've told her so many people have offered help.

"They feel really embarrassed, but are more than happy for a trust to be set up," she said. "This money will be used to give Levi a better life."

The independent trustees are Chris Matthews, a paramedic and relief team manager for the Wellington Free Ambulance who has known Levi all his life, Annette and Dannevirke's Janine Withey.

"As trustees we all have special skills we can bring to the job which will be a long-time commitment," Annette said.

For Annette this is her time to pay back to a community she credits with saving her life 21 years ago, when she underwent a life-saving liver transplant in Australia, funded by the generosity of Dannevirke people.

"This community gave me a second chance at life," she said."My trust was set up when I was 14 and I had my transplant when I was 19, so I know how a caring community can give you a good life. That's what we all want for Levi because it's going to be a difficult life ahead. When I was Levi's age, this community was fundraising for me, now it's time for me to give back. "

Already a major fundraising event is being planned by the Levi trustees, spearheaded by Janine.

"It'll be a full-on, fun zumba fitness party, with heaps of extra entertainment," she said. "But instead of a two-hour, hard out zumba session, we'll be breaking for cameos from the Zbros and the shaken Vegas crew and quick-fire auctions.

"This has got to be about making money, as well as being fun and already those in my class have begun to fundraise and believe me, watching the Zbros will be well worth the gold coin donation."

Janine said the trust's fundraising efforts are all about helping Levi.

"What has happened to him is everyone's worst nightmare," she said. "My nephew was in a car crash where two were killed and the accident has left him with neurological damage, so I know something of what could be ahead for Levi.

"We need to support Levi. If you're going to be 18, are 18 or were 18 - that's all of us - well this could be you. My nephew survived, but he's different and two other families lost people that day, now it's my time to step up. Thank goodness Levi has that survival instinct. We need to raise money so he can do his thing - no matter what that is."

Levi's parents, Jamie and Joanne say they realise the fundraising for their son will put the spotlight on their family, but they believe if Levi's story makes one teenager think before getting into a car, then the publicity will be worth it.

"My son is just 14 and Levi's accident has really affected him," Annette said. "Levi is such a nice kid and for all of us, if we can get our kids through their teenage years, well it's simply a matter of luck."

Levi is a former pupil of Napier Boys High School and his younger brother is still at school there so Annette and Janine are hoping from school pupils.

"We want the sports centre packed and rocking because we simply can't imagine what challenges are ahead for Levi, we can only raise plenty of money to wrap help around him," Annette said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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