By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — WILLSBORO — A community is pulling together to help a man whose hand was crushed in a logging accident.
Daniel “D.J.” Belzile Jr. had been logging for more than 20 years, said Wendy Sayward, who has known him since she was in the seventh grade.
“He actually logged when we were in high school,” she said.
On Oct. 22, Belzile was cutting a tree, like he had done countless times before, when it split and fell backward toward him, Sayward said.
His left hand was crushed between that tree and another behind him.
He lost his thumb, index finger and most of the skin on his hand, Sayward said.
His middle finger is unusable because it cannot bend, so he only has the use of his ring and little finger, and that is his dominant hand, she said.
Belzile has traveled with his wife, Tina, for treatment at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington every Monday and Thursday since the accident, Sayward said.
“They haven’t been able to start skin grafts yet,” she said. “It’s going to be quite a long process of reconstruction.”
D.J. can no longer work and is plagued with worry about how he will provide for his wife and three daughters, who are 18, 16 and 6 years old, Sayward said.
“He is devastated.”
And although Tina gets health insurance through her job, her wages aren’t nearly enough to cover household bills and expenses.
Tina has found coping with the uncertainty of her family’s situation difficult, but she’s hanging in there, Sayward said.
“I don’t know how she’s holding it together so well.”
Sayward and other family friends have been going to the Belziles’ home to help cook meals for the family and help take the children to sports practices.
But she wanted to do something more.
“I decided to help him because he would never ask for help,” she said. “He is the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back if you didn’t have one.”
This is the first fundraising event Sayward has organized, but the effort seems to be running smoothly so far, she said.
The event is set for 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Johnny’s Family Smokehouse in Willsboro.
Originally, she was expecting 100 people, but now she is anticipating a crowd as large as 200.
“It’s going to be pretty big, I’m hoping,” she said.
The restaurant is donating the space and pizza for attendees. Music will be provided free of charge by Mr. G’s Sound Machine from Willsboro.
All the money raised will go directly to the Belzile family to help them pay for medical, travel and household expenses.
Sayward is thankful to everyone who has contributed to the fundraiser. Donations of items for the silent auction and 50/50 raffle have been pouring in, she said.
“I’ve gotten so many.”
In all, about 75 items have been donated by area businesses and individuals. These include various gift certificates and gift baskets, firewood that will be delivered to the winners’ homes, logs and $100 worth of fuel from Countryside Fuels in Lewis.
One of the most unique items was donated by Sophie Clarke, who won the “Survivor” reality show last year. Clarke signed a few “Survivor” bags from her season and donated them to the cause, Sayward said.
Cash donations have amounted to $3,300 so far, she said. D.J.’s mother, Rhonda Belzile, has set up a special account for the donations.
Anyone wishing to volunteer to help the day of the event is welcome.
Sayward is happy she could do something to help her longtime friend and his “amazing family.
“He is one of the most honest, caring, hardworking people I know.”
Donations can be sent to Rhonda Belzile at 45 Maple St., Willsboro, NY 12996.
For more information, call Sayward at 572-1144.