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Support pours in for teen attacked by shark
Jul 06, 2005 12:00 am
JULY 1, 2005
From church congregations to his high school teammates, Wilson Countians are displaying unwavering support for a local teenager attacked by a shark in Florida's Gulf Coast.
Craig Hutto, 16, continued to improve after losing a leg in the shocking attack, according to his parents, who said he was alert, managed to joke about the ordeal and is making plans to resume his athletic career after receiving a prosthetic leg.
And as local residents breathed a sigh of relief that the Lebanon High School athlete was on the road to recovery, they also rolled up their sleeves to offer aid and support to the Hutto family.
From offers to start a meal chain when the family returns to Lebanon to a pair of trust funds to a fund-raiser staged by his LHS teammates as well as softball players, local residents – who like the rest of the nation seemed gripped by the teen's ordeal – have been quick to respond to the stunning incident.
St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church has established a trust fund and is planning a special event on behalf of the victim and his family, while friends of the teen at a second church are planning a community banner to welcome Hutto on his return home.
The banner will display a special inscription, according to First United Methodist Church Youth Director John Oakley, who said many of the teenage members of the congregation are friends with Hutto and immediately expressed a desire to show support for the injured.
"We also knew there were many other people in the community who felt the same way, and we decided to have a large banner printed with Philippians 3:14 on it and invite the community to come and sign it," he said.
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the verse reads.
Oakley said the banner is expected on Wednesday and will be available for the public to sign from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in the church's Family Life Center.
" … When Craig comes home he will know his entire community, his friends, his neighbors and even complete strangers are thinking and praying for him," Oakley said.
Among the first to respond to Hutto's plight were those who knew him from the athletic arena. A baseball and basketball player, at least one of his coaches was in Panama City shortly after learning of the attack and others were set to make the trip afterward.
Hutto's LHS baseball teammates as well as softball players from the school are apparently taking a cue from their coaches, holding a car wash July 9 at Advance Auto Parts on West Main Street.
Though Hutto's uncle said earlier this week it will likely be at least 10 days before the victim returns home, an e-mail was already circulating among the family's friends by Wednesday, setting up a meal chain to help out when they are back in Lebanon.
The family thanked local residents for their support in their first public statement since Monday's attack, which occurred in waist-deep water about 80 miles from the site of an earlier attack which claimed a girl's life.
Family members continued to offer additional details Thursday about the teen's ordeal as well as his condition in a number of national TV appearances.
Hutto's parents, Roger and Lou Ann Hutto, told the Associated Press on Thursday that their son was alert, has a vivid memory of the attack and even managed to crack a joke about his plight.
"He said he didn't want to go to the beach again," Lou Ann Hutto said. "I said 'You know daddy always wants to go out West, so we can go on a ranch.' He said 'Momma, I'll probably get kicked in the head by a horse."
She said he also joked that losing his right leg instead of his left was "one good thing" because he had suffered a severe sprain to his right ankle at a basketball camp.
Hutto's older brother, Brian, and an unlikely group of tourists including a doctor, nurse and paramedic were hailed as heroes along with the staff of Bay Medical Center, the Panama City medical facility where the victim has undergone several surgeries.
"Words will never express how grateful we are, how thankful we are," Roger Hutto said. "If it hadn't been for those people, I don't think we would be standing here today."
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.