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Schoolmates aid snakebitten boy

Seven-year-old Bobby Martin Jr. may have lost his strength, but he hasn't lost his friends.

Seriously ill from the bite Sunday of a coral snake, Martin remained in guarded condition Thursday in the intensive care unit at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Though still on a ventilator, he is able to move his hands and feet and respond to others by winking or raising an eyebrow. Yet even as he lies ill, Hernando County residents are rallying to his cause.

At Moton Elementary, where Bobby is a second-grader, students have been crafting handmade and computer-generated get-well cards. They also put together a basket of colored pencils, drawing paper and puzzle books.

Joined by their teachers, Moton students began collecting money for the Martin family to pay for expenses they may face as they stick close to the hospital. The teachers and students at Moton have already lent their faces to Bobby's cause. The boy's father, Bobby Martin Sr., came by Moton on Thursday with an instant camera to take pictures of people at school. The images are intended to give Bobby something familiar to focus on as he is more able to open his eyes.

Martin also gave the kids a brief warning about the dangers of approaching snakes, said Lynne Churchill, another of Bobby's teachers. Bobby was bitten near his Brooksville home Sunday when he picked up a coral snake.

The venom initially paralyzed Bobby's entire body. Doctors say it may be weeks or months before he recovers fully.

Aside from what's going on at the school, plans are in the works for a fund-raising benefit at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sail Inn, a tavern on U.S. 41 about a mile south of the county fairgrounds.

The Sail Inn, where Martin used to work, will feature a $5 pork dinner plate and other activities, said Tenia Aylor, a Sail Inn bartender. All proceeds will be donated to the Martins. There will also be door prizes and games for children.