Steve Lopez: Outpouring of support for paralyzed Fairfax High teen
Before you lose faith in humanity, consider the public response to the story of Fairfax High School junior Jose Chojolan, who earlier this year was left paralyzed from the neck down after surgery to remove a blood clot in his neck.
Dozens of people have pitched in to help 18-year-old Jose and his family since my March 28 column, many of them sending donations to the family in care of Jose's marine biology teacher. Included among the donations were $5,000 each from two Fairfax alums. The Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles and the California Apartment Assn. have together raised $20,000 for the family.
Joyce Kleifield, Fairfax High's director of development, told me more than $60,000 has now been donated to Jose's family. She said public officials who have offered assistance, such as joining the search for a suitable and affordable wheelchair-accessible apartment, include Assemblyman Mike Feuer, L.A. City Councilmen Paul Koretz and Tom Labonge, and West Hollywood mayor-elect Jeffrey Prang.
Meanwhile, students and faculty continue to plan fundraisers for the family while keeping the books on donations from outsiders. Judging by the response I've gotten, readers have acted out of concern for the Chojolan family, but also in appreciation of the way in which Fairfax students immediately came to the aid of a classmate.
Chojolan has left the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey and moved into temporary quarters in Hollywood while public officials, along with the L.A. apartment group, search for permanent housing. Before Jose was stricken, the family had lived in a second-floor apartment, but it's not wheelchair-accessible. It is not yet clear whether Jose will regain the use of his limbs.
Those still wishing to donate to the family can make out checks to Jose's mother, Maria Reynoso, who is on leave from her job as a caretaker at an elder-care center while looking after Jose. Checks can be mailed to teacher Jennie Jackson in care of Fairfax High School, 7850 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90046.
-- Steve Lopez
Photo: Fairfax High School seniors Alexander Mendez, left, Paris Wise and Gabriel Russell make buttons to sell as a fundraiser for classmate Jose Chojolan. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times