ST. PETERSBURG — Ireland Nugent, the spunky 2 1/2-year-old who lost her feet to a lawn mower accident last week, is prompting an outpouring of emotional and financial support from charities, local celebrities and people around the country.
In the four days since Trinity Presbyterian Church in Clearwater established a fund to collect money for her medical care, people have donated more than $16,000.
A Hillsborough County hospital and a former professional wrestler from Seminole are offering to help with prosthetics and comprehensive care.
And about 10 people who also lost limbs in lawn mower accidents have called to offer their support, said the Rev. Dennis Reid, Trinity's pastor.
Ireland's father accidentally backed a lawn mower over the toddler Wednesday at their Palm Harbor home, severing both legs just above the ankles.
"Tons of people have contacted me to talk to me about benefit concerts and other ways they want to help," Reid said Sunday. "I heard Bubba the Love Sponge wants to help. … I sent him an email but haven't heard back yet."
Ireland's parents are delaying decisions about her medical future until she gets past today's surgery at Tampa General Hospital, when doctors are closing her wounds and preparing her for prosthetic feet.
But the Nugents plan to work with Shriners Hospital for Children, near the University of South Florida's Tampa campus, and ex-wrestler and amputee Steve Chamberland, Reid said.
Shriners wants to provide free comprehensive medical care, including prosthetic feet and rehabilitation, Jamie Santillo Parker, a hospital spokeswoman, said Sunday.
And Chamberland said he's prepared to supply Ireland with a lifetime of top-quality prosthetics, a commitment of $100,000 or more.
Chamberland, founder of the charity 50 Legs in 50 Days, has the money for the first set of feet, he said. But Ireland will need replacements often — especially when she's growing.
He will raise money for her through fundraisers and with help from the charity's board, which includes wrestler Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea and business people, he said.
"I've gotten so close to the family from spending time with them every day," Chamberland said Sunday. "I want what's best for the kid."
The Nugents have insurance. Jerry, the father, works for Pinellas County and the mother, Nicole is a church preschool director. But out-of-pocket costs could also be steep.
Many insurance companies cap payments for prosthetics. And the family has accrued big bills for Bayflite transportation to Tampa General Hospital, physician services and hospital care, the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday.
Even so, said Reid, the family's minister, the outreach has been remarkable.
"At the heart of most people is compassion," Reid said. "People want to reach out and help this little girl's life."
Contact Brittany Alana Davis at [email protected] or (850) 323-0353.