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A sweet neighborhood salute

Posted: September 6, 2009 9:19 p.m.
Updated: September 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Connor Radding, 6, displays his combo of Dreyer's ice cream and toppings, a cookie and brownie.

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Doctors once told Tom Bolewski, of Saugus, that he would be on a ventilator in a nursing home for the rest of his life.

But on Saturday evening, Bolewski, 50, found himself in his wheelchair, conversing and eating Dreyer's ice cream with his neighbors who've raised thousands of dollars to support him and his family.

Dreyer's Slow Churned Neighborhood Salute awarded the residents on and near Red Cedar Place with ice cream for the neighborhood which pulled together to help Bolewski - a recovering quadriplegic.

Picnic tables were covered with open ice cream cartons containing 27 different flavors Saturday evening. Neighbors brought out their folding chairs and potluck meals to make it a complete block party - a common gathering for this close-knit neighborhood including residents on Red Cedar Place, Peach Court, Buckeye Court and Coral Way in Saugus.

"There's no doubt the neighborhood and community have an equal share in the success I've been having," Bolewski said Saturday, in reference to his recovery. "Everyone poured out everything they could to make our (family's) life possible."

His community gave him the emotional, vocal, financial and family support he needed when he was "on the verge of dying," he said.

On Jan. 20, 2008, Tom Bolewski hit a rock while riding his motocross dirt bike. After landing about 10 feet away in an embankment, Bolewski suffered a spinal injury, paralysis to his vocal chords, and his family endured months of unhopeful news from doctors.

Since the accident, his progress has surprised many. He can get on the computer with a special mouse, he gets in a standing frame for an hour every day, he does daily breathing exercises for a half-hour, and more, said Kim Bolewski.

"He's defying every doctor that, in the beginning, said he'd be in a convalescent home somewhere," she said. "He was supposed to be in a nursing home on a ventilator pretty much for the rest of his life."

Kim Bolewski, 47, attributes Bolewski's progress to his strong mind and hard work. With thousands of dollars owed for doctor's bills, she feels her husband deserves to get every bit of help he can. That is where friends, including those helpful neighbors come in.

Since the accident, neighbors have raised more than $25,000 for the Bolewski family.

"The money my neighbors and community raised allowed us to buy a van to transport Tom and a standing frame. It helped pay for almost all the construction in the house to modify things in the house - it paid for all the materials, ramps and getting us an accessible bathroom," Kim Bolewski said. "It's pretty phenomenal."

It also helped fund a ramp that leads from the Bolewski's home, on the corner of the Red Cedar Place cul de sac, to Mountainview Park.

Neighbor, Palma Lindsay, submitted the paragraph essay to Dreyer's explaining why their neighborhood deserved a tribute. She focused on two big events that the neighborhood hosted at a local park which raised about $20,000 combined.

Neighbors formed a committee to put together Astro Jumps, vendors, food, a silent auction and more.

"The amazing thing about our neighborhood is no one hesitated, even though we all are busy people," Lindsay said. "And they'd do it for me, and that's what's so great about that neighborhood. I live around good people."

The first major fundraiser after Bolewski's accident was a garage sale, organized by neighbor Irma Tamayo, which raised $9,000.

For residents of the 21-year-old neighborhood, sticking together and helping each other is just what they do, Lindsay said.

"We help each other whenever there's a problem in our neighborhood," she said. "We're always there for each other's kids and families."

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