Old friends wanted to do something to help the family of 7-year-old Bobby Martin Jr., who was paralyzed from a coral snake bite last week. Maybe raise a little money. Show support during a difficult time.
The Martins got the message loud and clear at a benefit Saturday afternoon at the Sail Inn, where Bobby Sr. used to work.
Country music blared from an outside stereo. Smoke poured from a barbecue pit. Horseshoes and volleyballs flew. Throngs of friends showed up with covered dishes. A hairdresser from Masaryktown gave $5 haircuts outside. And a glass jar sitting on the bar was filled with money.
"We are overwhelmed," said Bobby's mother, Tina Martin. "It's just amazing how much support we've gotten."
And they all wanted to know how Bobby Jr. is doing.
"We're seeing light at the end of the tunnel," Bobby Sr. said. "The boy has started moving his hands and feet and wrists and legs himself."
He can communicate with nods instead of just raising his eyebrows. The swelling in his hand, where the snake bit him, is down.
But the Moton Elementary second-grader is still in intensive care at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He has developed an infection in his lungs, Mrs. Martin said.
"He's real tired," she said. "But the pain is starting to subside."
He's alert, Mrs. Martin said. "He knows this is going on today."
The benefit was arranged by employees of Sail Inn on U.S. 41, south of Brooksville.
"They're going to need some money to help with bills and therapy," said Pat Wilkins, a bartender and an organizer.
But it was also about showing the family the community is there for them, she said.
The family has medical insurance, but Martin, who is self-employed in construction, has not been able to work with his son in the hospital.
"What goes around comes around," said George Brayton of Brooksville, a family friend of the Martins. "We all live here and get along. That's what it's all about. It's an unfortunate accident. We're just helping with pocket change."
Inside the bar, people signed the back of a Budweiser poster with get well wishes.
"Bobby, hurry home, we all miss you!" one message read.
Martin made notes of his own, copying down names and addresses of the people there.
When his son gets healthy, he wants to send everyone a thank you.
Tina Martin, the mother of Bobby Jr., talks to Bobby's best friend, J.D. Nunn, 10, who was looking glum Saturday at the Brooksville fund-raiser. Mrs. Martin asked him whether he was sad Bobby wasn't there. She assured him Bobby was doing well. J.D. was with Bobby when the snake attacked.