Benefit for Pat Culley set for Friday |

Benefit for Pat Culley set for Friday

Tim Mutrie

Pat Culley, the Aspen rugby player who was paralyzed below the chest during a game in May, will return to Aspen with his family to attend a benefit party in his name at the Sky Hotel on Friday night.Featuring music by Big Daddy Lee and the King Bees, appetizers, desserts, beer and wine, and a silent auction, organizers are seeking to raise funds to help Culley with medical expenses. Attendees will be asked to make a $25 donation at the door. The benefit runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m.The 25-year-old suffered a severe spinal cord injury in an awkward collision during a match against a Boston rugby club. On May 10, the Santa Rosa, Calif., native was flown to Atlanta for treatment at a top spinal cord rehabilitation center. He has been undergoing intensive physical and occupational therapy there since.”The first month was rough,” Culley told The Aspen Times last month. “But it’s getting better.”It’s pretty crazy that that many people care. It’s heartwarming. People from all over the country, people I don’t even know, are sending me letters.”In July, Culley moved into a manual wheelchair, a giant step considering doctors initially told him he would be confined to an electric one. He has use of his arms, but not his hands, though Culley said last month that little improvements, in sensation and touch, give him reason to be optimistic.”Being at the hospital, I’ve seen a lot of other patients who are a lot worse off than I. Way worse off. And I’ve also seen some patients who scooted through the program and started walking again. You’ve got to realize that it’s early yet and you can’t ever give up hope,” Culley said.Just about every restaurant in Aspen donated to the silent auction, said event coordinator Brady Emens of Aspen.Other items include trips to places such as Hawaii and Sonoma Valley, Calif., hotel stays, ski lessons, a soccer ball autographed by phenom Freddy Adu, and even a pair of skis, all 90 cms of them, from Aspen’s ski prodigy, 4-year-old Bridger Gile.”There’s silent auction items for all interests and pocketbooks,” said Emens. “We’ve gotten a huge amount of support from the community, and really the only thing we need are people there. And we’re trying to make this a community event; visitors and locals are welcome.”Said Gentlemen of Aspen head coach Mick Melrose: “We’re all looking forward to seeing him, and I know Pat’s been looking forward to it for a long time. I think it’ll be great for everyone to see him firsthand and have a chat with him, too.”And for me, in my first year with the club, it has been very nice to see how everyone has come together to make sure this is a successful night for Pat’s benefit.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is

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