More than 750 people, “joined hands,” at a fundraiser Nov. 18 in Countryside to financially and emotionally support Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Misiewicz of La Grange, who lost both legs and shattered both eardrums on July 20 when he stepped on a buried improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan.
While recovering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Josh received the Purple Heart medal this fall from Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos.
Besides the 750 people who bought tickets in advance for the “Join Hands for Josh” fund-raiser held at , “a ton of people” paid at the door for the $25 tickets, according to Kathy Wolf, one of the more than 100 volunteers working on the benefit. Ed Kram, another volunteer and a neighbor of the Misiewicz family, said, “It’s been an overwhelming response.”
Other fund-raisers during the event included a silent auction, raffles, selling Jello shots and posing for photos that also would be put in a book as a keepsake for Josh. The silent auction included jerseys from the Chicago Blackhawks, White Sox and Cubs, hockey sticks, and ticket packages, according to Michelle Kram. Organizers did not have an estimate Friday night of how much money they expected to raise.
While the federal government is providing for Josh’s medical care, other costs need to be borne by his family. These include transportation for Josh and his siblings to and from Bethesda; home improvements, such as an outside ramp and accessible bathroom; and a hand-controlled vehicle, according to his father, Bill.
“Joshua is doing remarkable. He’s fighting a new fight and he’s doing it wholeheartedly,” said Bill, who attended the fundraiser with Josh’s sister Alyce, and a brother, Adam. The oldest in the family, Josh has another brother, Will.
Josh and his mother, Nancy, were away from La Grange, attending a Marine Corps ball in Las Vegas with members of his 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment. Bill and Nancy have been taking turns, and time off work, to visit their son in his apartment at the wounded warrior barracks at Walter Reed.
Josh is being fitted for prosthetic legs. He has had surgery on his left ear and hearing is coming back in his right ear, according to his father. “He’s doing well.”
Patrick Elwood, reporter/anchor for WFLD-TV Fox Chicago News, was master of ceremonies Friday night, and told the crowd, “Everyone knows why we’re were. Everyone’s united in body, spirit and soul.” He named some of the volunteers, including Thom Serafin, a political consultant for the television station, and his wife, Ann, who produces news segments for anchor Robin Robinson. The Serafins live in La Grange Park and used to live in La Grange near the Misiewicz family.
Later, Elwood told Patch that Thom and Ann, “came and told us the story. It’s very personal to them. It hits you in the gut.” Working at the fund-raiser, “that’s the least I can do,” he added.
Ann Serafin said, “Our kids all grew up together.”
About the fund-raiser, Thom Serafin said, “We’re a bunch of guys in the neighborhood who put it together.”
Working at registration, Ed Kram said neighbors call their block, “The Block That Rocks” for this fund-raiser and block parties. With more than 100 volunteers for this event, “we could have taken more.”
Kram, who lives on Kensington Avenue behind the Misiewicz famiy, said the fund-raising began the weekend after Josh was injured. “Most of the core team lives on the block.” Another fund-raiser was held Oct. 15 at an American Legion Hall in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. But Ann Serafin said, “This is the big one.”
Among those attending was retired Marine Maj. Leonard Winner of Western Springs, who served in Somalia, and was among a contingent from the Western Springs Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars. Post Commander Chuck Bosko, “spearheaded everything we could do for Josh,” Winner said.
Ken LaBahn of La Grange had just recently returned from visiting Phoenix, Ariz., where he got a news flash about the fundraiser. His son had gone to Ogden Avenue School and Lyons Township High School with Josh.
Josh also attended Park Junior High in La Grange Park. That school and others help raised money for him or tried to cheer the corporal.
Park, whose mascot is The Patriots, is raising money with homeroom competitions, button sales and other projects. The Legris/Serafin Family Foundation is matching the amount raised, up to $5,000.
LT, where Josh graduated in 2006, raised $2,009 and Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park held a bake sale.
Fifth-graders at St. Francis Xavier School in La Grange sent Josh three big banners, including one that stated, “Thank you for being so brave. ”
On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the student radio station at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, where Josh’s uncle Art works, held a benefit for all veterans and specifically Josh.
In high school, Josh was an Illinois State Hockey League All-Star, and the league’s top scorer, according to the website www.joinhandsforjosh.com . He played for St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minn., and earned an associates’ degree in the fall of 2009. In March 2010, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.
At Friday’s event, former Chicago Blackhawks hockey player, Cliff Koroll, president of the Blackhawk Alumni Association, gave Josh’s father a $1,000 check on behalf of the group.
Donations still can be made to the www.joinhandsforjosh.com website, and a 501(c)3 organization, Disabled Patriot Fund of Illinois, has been set up.
Events planned for 2012 are a spring golf outing and Josh’s homecoming party.
The Join Ranks for Josh Foundation is on Facebook. More information also is available by emailing email@example.com.