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Barbara Toney Wheeler went to bed in late March healthy and fit. She set her alarm for her morning job as a caseworker at Timber Ridge Ranch. When she awakened, she fell out of bed, striking her head and fracturing the C4 vertebrae in her neck.
Barbara was a member of the Benton High School Class of 1970. The former homecoming queen now needs the help of her community in order to receive the treatment she needs.
Carol Martin Blann, a member of the Class of 1968 and Cindy Rowland Bowden, of the Class of 1972, along with other community residents, are rallying behind Barbara and her family to support her through this difficult time and are planning a fundraiser to assist her.
Cindy explained that Barbara is now paralyzed and technically is classified as a quadriplegic.
"When it first happened, she had to have everything done for her," Cindy said. Now, weeks later, Barbara is gaining strength and some sensation is returning to her hands and feet.
"There is still hope for her to walk someday," Cindy said.
Barbara hopes to receive treatment at a Florida rehabilitation facility that can provide the kind of extensive care and training she needs to help her regain her strength.
Cindy and Carol are planning a benefit to raise the necessary funds for Barbara's care at the Florida facility. They also hope to raise enough money to send Barbara's family to stay with her in Florida for a while.
Barbara has four children and the money will allow someone to be in Florida with her and assist with her personal needs.
Finally, Cindy and Carol hope that enough money will be raised so that Barbara's home can be modified to make it handicap-accessible when she returns home.
The benefit for Barbara, sponsored by the Benton High School Class of 1970, will be held at Luigi's Pizza & Pasta in Bryant at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 17. The Dyer Brothers Band (or the CRS Band), who are classmates of Barbara, will provide entertainment.
The event also will include a silent auction featuring items donated by local businesses.
Collection baskets will be available to receive both monetary donations as well as cards and notes of encouragement for Barbara. Those who cannot attend the benefit but still wish to contribute may mail checks and messages to "Friends of Barb," 12414 Timber Bend, Little Rock, AR 72211.
Cindy said that Barbara has been greatly touched by the outpouring of love she has received from the community.
"She has never felt sorry for herself or asked 'why me?' but she did say she has felt very touched by the generosity of others," Cindy said.
Cindy asks people to continue to keep Barbara in their prayers and to "stand together as alumni."