Knoxville — An accident that occurred thousands of miles away has impacted the lives of a rural Bussey family and inspired a pair of Knoxville Middle School Talented And Gifted (TAG) students to reach out to an alumnus they have never met.
Loren Lettington was repairing a piece of Vermeer equipment in Germany on Nov. 26, 2012, when the piece of equipment - estimated to weigh nearly 1,000 pounds - fell on him. He suffered a broken neck, which left him paralyzed. Three weeks passed before he could even be transferred back to the United States for further treatment.
When he returned to America, he landed at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He, along with wife, Megan, and children, Briar (21 months) and Hadley (nearly five months) have been in Chicago ever since.
Loren is a 2005 graduate of Eddyville/Blakesburg/Fremont alumnus. Megan is the daughter of Hap and Mary Miller of Knoxville, and a 2006 Knoxville High School alumnus. Mary is also a secretary at KMS.
When Loren had his accident, it was a topic of conversation at KMS. Eighth grade student Jinni Dingel heard some of these discussions. As time went by and her TAG service project came up, she remembered the struggle the Lettingtons are facing and wanted to do something to help them.
Dingel, with Hannah Hatch, organized a 7-8 grade dance to be held next Friday, March 15, with the theme of neon. The dance is open only to students in those grades and will be held in the KMS gym. A local disc jockey is donating her time. Free will donations will be collected and the price of admission to the dance will be $3 per student.
The service project is an established part of the eighth grade TAG program. Dingel and Hatch say they are getting a good feeling by doing what they can to help a family in need. Megan and Loren are impressed by the duo's caring work.
"I think it's awesome," Loren said in a telephone interview.
"It's amazing for them, not even knowing who we are," Megan added. "It's nice to know people care."
The Lettingtons live in the EBF School District. Megan and Loren have ties to the school, and Loren is known to be a huge EBF wrestling fan. The wrestling team held its own fund raiser already to help out the family.
"That turned out really well," Megan said.
Megan and her children are staying in a nearby Ronald McDonald House during Loren's recovery. She said everyone there has been great. The boys in the KMS TAG program are collecting pop can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House as its service project.
Loren is making progress during his rehabilitation. Earlier this week, he was able to get off of the feeding tube and eat an actual meal. His first dinner was his wife's chicken enchiladas, and he says it was the perfect meal for his solid food eating comeback.
Megan said his neck is getting stronger as well. He is able to turn his head to a greater degree than he used to. Loren said doctors are just telling him to take his recovery one day at a time.
The family will not be able to immediately return to home, and when they do, adjustments will be made. Megan is unsure whether or not they will try to get a new home or remodel their existing home to accommodate Loren's condition.
Loren fully intends to return to work for Vermeer when he is able. He said the company has been good to his family and done a lot for him since the accident.
"They've been a lot of help," Loren said.
Megan said the family does not like to ask people for money. They do appreciate the girls' efforts to help them, but if there is anything the Lettingtons seek from the community, communication and prayers top the list. Megan said they would love to receive cards, photos, letters, thinking of you notes - just little things to remind them of home during this difficult time. Loren and Megan both appreciate any and all prayers people want to send up for Loren's recovery and for the family in general.
If you would like to make a donation to the fundraiser Dingel and Hatch have organized, money can be mailed or dropped off at KMS. Cards, letters, etc., can be mailed to the Lettington family at:
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
345 East Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60611
We intend to follow up on the March 15 dance and hope to stay in communication with the Lettington family as Loren continues his recovery.