Mill Creek rallies around family in need

By Jana Hill

For The Herald

MILL CREEK — Jackson High School senior Loa Griesbach was looking forward to college life at the University of Portland next year.

But now she’s paralyzed.

The pretty ballerina who used to dance six days a week was injured along with other family members a few months ago during winter break in a rollover accident on I-5 near Kettleman City, Calif., southwest of Fresno.

Loa, 18, was left a quadriplegic, and while she cannot even move her head, friends say she can still smile.

"She’s hanging in there," said her mother, Bonny.

Loa is at the University of Washington Medical Center’s spinal chord injury clinic in Seattle undergoing rehabilitation, said Karen DeSpain, her aunt.

A group of Mill Creek moms is hoping to make the path to her new life easier; they have a goal to raise $30,000 for the Greisbach family.

They have scheduled a luncheon for 11:30 a.m. Saturday April 27, at the Outback Steakhouse in Bothell, 22606 Bothell-Everett Highway.

Penny Darr is credited with much of the legwork for the fundraiser. Sherry Smart and Cindy Sanders are helping.

They were initially working to raise money for the Class of 2002 senior party, but decided to change gears when they learned of the Greisbach family’s troubles.

"Our senior class had enough (money). We felt we really needed to do something to represent the Class of 2002 and the community," Darr said.

They hope to raise funds to help the family pay for expenses after the accident. Loa’s mother said it may cost $100,000, but it’s impossible to estimate at this point.

They spent three weeks renting hotel rooms while Loa was hospitalized in Fresno, Calif., and $14,000 to bring her home.

They also had to buy a van and convert their Mill Creek-area home to make it accessible for a wheelchair. They will also add a new room to their home.

Darr was impressed by the family’s resolve and said they are "looking at a voice-activated thing so (Loa) can lead a full and active life."

The Griesbach family has quite an uphill road.

Bonny Griesbach suffered head trauma and extensive damage to her left arm in the accident and will be unable to drive for a year.

Loa’s sisters and a cousin were also in the car, DeSpain said.

Saley, 15, suffered a broken leg, as well as two broken arms and hands, but Helga, 13, was spared with only minor injures, DeSpain said.

A cousin, Teifur Thorsteinsson, 9, had extensive head and arm fractures requiring 102 stitches.

A friend, Kayla Anderson, 15, suffered minor injuries.

Loa’s father, Nick, has been by her bedside from morning until night, Smart said.

"He whispers in her ear, and her face just lights up," Smart said.

Loa was accepted to attend the University of Portland in the fall with a four-year scholarship. She planned to major in biology and pursue a career in medicine.

DeSpain describes her as a promising artist and straight-A student.

She said she thinks the fund-raising effort has "lifted the family’s spirits."

"The kindness of strangers has been just incredible," Bonny Griesbach said. "I’m in awe. I don’t even know what to say to these people."

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