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Barbecue will support treatment for stricken skateboarder

MEDFORD — A local teen who traded his skateboard for a wheelchair after a massive stroke two years ago is finally en route (Saturday) to a special rehab facility in the Midwest while local skaters rally at his beloved skate park to raise money to help him continue needed therapy.

Medford resident Matt Hankey, 19, a local teen who suffered a paralyzing brain hemorrhage and seizure in April 2012, has been raising money for over two years simply to attend a single month's treatment at Sara's Garden, an Ohio-based hyperbaric treatment facility. Skaters from around the region today will host an annual skateboarding and barbecue fundraiser dubbed Medford Mayhem in honor of Hankey as they've done since 2012, when Hankey became paralyzed.

A 2013 graduate of South Medford High School, Hankey had long suffered migraines as a child. Kept in a medically induced coma for a month after first falling ill, Hankey awoke to the reality that he had gone from a serious athlete with a sponsorship from at least one skate company and a member of the competitive Jack's Board House skate team, to a 16-year-old with a tracheotomy, able to move just one arm. Despite being in a wheelchair and losing his mobility and speech, Hankey went on to graduate with honors and was wheeled across the stage by his best friend the following spring.

Hyperbaric treatment is not a recognized therapy by Hankey's insurance. But spending his days researching his condition, communicating with friends via social network and working on therapy exercises, Hankey holds out hope for the hyperbaric therapy.

Frequently seen in his wheelchair at Medford's Bear Creek Skate Park and Jack's Board House, Hankey hopes to once again skate with friends.

"Sara's Garden is my best chance to get better and to see improvement,"  Hankey said. "There have been people with my condition that have been able to get up and walk again, and I'm still hoping for a full recovery."

Jack's Board House owner Rita Allred said local skaters have not given up hope that they'll see Hankey, still a member of the board house team, ride his skateboard again.

Saturday's event will include raffle items, a barbecue and contests for skaters from around the region. Entry into the event, at the Bear Creek Park skateboard park off Highland Drive, is $10, with all proceeds going directly to Hankey.

With rehab treatment at Sara's Garden priced at just under $7,000 per month, Hankey has enough money to complete one month of treatment.

"It's been way too long for Matt to have waited so we're really excited about the fact he's finally getting to go. We will have people coming from Portland and California and Klamath Falls and Grants Pass that will participate in the event," Allred said. "He has enough to go for the first month so our hope is we can raise enough money to help him get to stay a little longer."

On the web: http://sarasgarden.org/

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com