By Amy Daybert Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — Alphonse Tardif knew he wanted to help a friend who in June suffered a traumatic brain injury.
The Lynnwood resident visited his friend, Colton Wilson, 21, in a hospital room shortly after he fell off his skateboard and hit his head. Tardif, 31, spoke with Wilson’s mother and older sister. Then he got to work.
“I’m a big energy person and I felt their energy,” Tardiff said. “I called a couple of friends and asked, ‘What are we able to do?’”
In August, he founded The Colton Can Foundation to raise money for Wilson’s recovery. With the help of other volunteers, Tardif last month held The Colton Can Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Day at The Jet Bar and Grill in Mill Creek. The event included a concert by “American Idol” winner Kris Allen and other artists. It brought in a crowd of more than 400 people and raised about $18,000.
“We had a great time and it was exactly what we wanted it to be,” Tardif said. “It really honored Colton.”
Wilson is now out of the hospital and working toward recovery at a skilled nursing facility in Northgate. As a South Whidbey High School baseball player, Wilson battled bone cancer and used his wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2007 to renovate the school’s baseball field.
Tardif, who is studying psychology at Western Washington University, met Wilson about a year ago at Azul Restaurant and Lounge in Mill Creek.
“He always wanted to learn something and he was always talking to people about what their experiences were,” said Tardif.
Wilson, months into their friendship, told him about fighting cancer, Tardif added.
“We went snowboarding and we were up on the lift and talking about some of the stuff I’ve gone through in my life and he said ‘Yeah, I’ve gone through some stuff, too.’ I felt kind of bad after he told me his story and I thought what I’ve gone through is minimal compared to that.”
Wilson underwent surgery hours after his accident, said his sister, Stina Wenzek. He can now breathe on his own, eat, and is able to blink to communicate ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ she added. Twice he has spoken in a complete sentence.
“He has a very slow recovery,” Wenzek said. “I’m going to do everything I can to get him better. He and I are extremely close. He’s probably one of my best friends.”
Wenzek, 30, read her brother cards made by people who attended the event and hung those and photos from the day up in his room. The foundation has become larger than she thought it would be when Tardif asked if he could start it, Wenzek said.
“I don’t understand how somebody could do something so amazing for someone else,” she said.
The event was a testament to how many people love her brother, Wenzek added.
“You could walk into the event and feel this immense love and care throughout the whole place,” she said. “It was something I had never experienced.”
Colton Can bracelets — green to represent traumatic brain injury awareness — are being sold through the foundation’s website. Tardif plans to host other fundraising events and to make The Colton Can Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Day an annual event.
Every dollar earned by the foundation now is going toward Wilson’s recovery, Tardif added. In the future, the foundation plans to try raising funds for another family with a loved one recovering from a similar injury.
When his friend is ready, Tardif plans to turn the foundation over to Wilson so he can continue to raise money to help others with brain injuries.
“I’m excited to see what he does with it because I’m just going to give it to him once he’s ready to take over,” he said. “I’m going to say, ‘Even in a less than perfect state you still made an impact. You inspired us to do something good for other people still. Here’s your foundation.’”
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; email@example.com.
How to help
Colton Can bracelets can be bought at www.coltoncan.com. Proceeds go toward the cost of recovery for Colton Wilson, who in June suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling off his skateboard and hitting his head. To send a message to Wilson’s family or follow his progress, visit www.facebook.com/fightforcolton.