The Christopher Heitzman Benefit 5K Run/Walk is set for Saturday morning at the school.
Heitzman, who suffered multiple broken bones and a head injury, survived the wreck on Trickum Road in east Cobb, along with 18-year-old Taylor Seaman, who is now a student at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.
The driver of the car, Ryan Aschenbach, died. All three had just graduated from Lassiter.
Jamie Cole, a friend of the family who worked with Christopher’s mother Debbie Heitzman for about four years, began organizing the benefit race four months ago.
“There are so many high school students that were close to this accident,” Cole said. “I thought this would be a great way to get a lot of them together to raise money for the Heitzmans.”
Money from the event will help pay for Christopher Heitzman’s around-the-clock care.
That does not mean the 18-year-old’s health is not improving, though.
Debbie Heitzman said her son has gained nearly 20 pounds since coming home in mid-December, and he recently started smiling and laughing.
“We were just blown away to see him laugh and smile,” she said. “That’s the part we have missed, being able to communicate with him.”
In coming weeks, the family is also preparing for more surgeries to help with the teenager’s continued healing.
“We are trying to get him really healthy now so that he will be able to survive these surgeries,” she said.
The young man remains in a wheelchair and cannot walk or run, but Debbie Heitzman said they are planning on pushing him in the benefit race.
And while Christopher Heitzman won’t be able physically to run or walk in the benefit, Debbie is planning to push him along with fellow runners or walkers.
“This is one of the first events he’s actually been able to attend,” she said.
At two previous fundraisers, her son was still hospitalized, but more than $16,000 was collected for the family.
“The support is overwhelming and unwavering. It’s incredible that everybody is still as involved and hanging on to every little improvement he makes,” she said. “In tough times, I think people want to see the good things and that improvement.”
It’s no coincidence the event is being held on Australia Day, where Debbie, Christopher and her younger son Davis were all born.
“This just makes it more meaningful for me,” Debbie Heitzman said. “This is a big day for us.”
So far, approximately 27 people have signed up and paid for the run/walk, but Cole said more than 130 people have commented on the event Facebook page that they will be participating. To find the page, search “Christopher Heitzman Benefit 5K Run” on Facebook.
Participants are encouraged to register ahead of time at paypal.com with the email address email@example.com, or on the day of the event.
Registration information or donations can also be mailed to Cole at 500 Queensbury Way, Acworth, GA 30102. Checks should be made payable to “The Christopher Heitzman Fund.”
“Even if you don’t want to walk or run, we’ll have donation buckets set up to join in the activities,” she said.
A raffle has also been set up, and tickets will cost between $3 and $5 each.
Items up for raffle include running shoes, oil changes, home-alarm systems and installations, private chef sessions, private baseball lessons, free air-conditioning maintenance, pottery, autographed books and local restaurant gift cards, among others.
Raffle participants must be present the day of the event. Names will be pulled after the run/walk.
A face painter will be on site and other children activities, including music, will be part of the fundraising event, along with snacks donated from the local Kroger and Publix stores, Pepsi and the Sandy Plains Baseball Association.
Participants are asked to park in front of the school or in the football parking lot.