August 20, 2017

Fundraiser held for WGHS student James Groenier after accident

Webster Groves High School (WGHS) sophomore James Groenier was not the most social person growing up. After a truck hit him Sept. 12 on Webster University’s campus, his small group of friends grew bigger and stronger.

James said his support group is what keeps him going.

“For the rest of everyone’s life, this group is going to be together,” Groenier said. “It’s not just me that changed, it’s everyone, it’s everything. It’s a big thing to have support like that.”

Groenier was struck by a truck on Edgar Road near Webster’s Emerson Library. A group of Webster students witnessed the accident and helped the severely injured Groenier out of the street.

Groenier’s friends put together a beneft concert to raise money for his medical expenses March 10. Te concert featured the WGHS acapella group, Broadway performer Elizabeth Teeter and more. Groenier said the concert emphasized how strong Webster Groves is as a community.

“It’s incredible,” Groenier said. “It was the purest form of community strength.”

Groenier’s mom, Sally Groenier, said friends, family members and even strangers attended the concert. She said it meant the world to her to see people taking the time to show up and support James.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” Sally said. “We are forever grateful for everything they have done.”

James went on stage for the final performance of the night: the WGHS acapella group singing “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. James said his face turned red and his heart started beating fast.

James said it was one of the strongest moments for him and he thought to himself, “I’m going to remember this for the tough times.”

Isabella Blake, one of James’s friends who helped organize the concert, said seeing all the support gives her hope that James will always have people by his side.

“These kinds of people surround him like guardian angels,” Blake said.

The accident left James with injuries throughout his body. His arms, thighs and stomach sustained severe injuries and his left shoulder showed symptoms of ligament and tendon damage. He also had minor head injuries and broken bones in both legs.

James will need physical therapy for another year, and his health insurance only covers 60 visits of physical therapy a year. Sally said they are considering cutting down on physical therapy sessions to twice a week to make the 60 visits last until June.

The lack of physical and mental energy are the main challenge at the moment for James. He goes to physical therapy three times a week and sleeps 14 hours a day to help with the healing process. He goes to school every day for four hours to catch up on some classes. He said he tries to absorb as much as possible and he works at his own pace.

“School is very draining and physical therapy is very painful,” James said.

With all the pain, heavy drugs and fractured legs, Sally said James’ friends lift his spirit.

“His friends would come over, and for that brief moment when they were there, he would just light up and shine,” Sally said. “He would just forget that he’s in this horrible state.”

The 16-year-old has a long road to full recovery and said this journey is teaching him lessons about life. James agreed with his mom when she said life works in interesting ways to bring a person to where he needs to be.

“I don’t know what the future after this is going to hold,” James said.

The money the Groenier family raised at the concert will not cover all medical expenses, but will help. Sally said they raised more than they expected, but declined to comment on the actual amount raised.

“I was thrilled with what we raised,” Sally said.

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