CAMERON PARK, CA - Two months ago, teenager Zachary Pickett was preparing for his junior year at Ponderosa High School. He would be class president and a starter on the water polo team.
However, on Aug. 5, Pickett's plans for the new school year dramatically changed course.
That day, Pickett ended his lifeguard shift at Cameron Park Lake with a quick dip in the water.
"It was 95 degrees that day when he ran into the water," Pickett's father Tod Pickett said. "He dove in, but couldn't see the bottom. It doesn't take much pressure at all to break your neck.
Zach Pickett hit a sandbar he didn't see. The impact broke his C-7 vertebrae. Realizing he couldn't feel his legs, he called his friends for help. Their quick response and the paramedics' actions saved Pickett's life, Tod Pickett said.
The teen was treated at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento where it was determined he was paralyzed from the waist down. He is now recovering in Shriners Hospitals for Children in Sacramento and missing the first weeks of school.
In the weeks since the accident, his classmates and neighbors called a community meeting and organized three big fundraisers to help his family with medical bills and the transition back home.
"It was like a mini hurricane in that room. I was just amazed at the talents that came together in that room," family friend and fundraiser organizer Dino Pellicano said. "We know this is going to be both a short-term and a long-term journey. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."
The three fundraisers are:
- On Sept. 6, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be a Spaghetti Feed at Holy Trinity Church.
- On Sept. 16, there will be a Swim-A-Thon hosted by two Olympic swimmers at Cameron Park CSD.
- On Sept. 17, in Folsom at 5 p.m., will be a Chicago Fire Monday Night Football game.
All the events and additional fundraisers can be found on the Zach Pickett Fundraiser Facebook page and ThePickettFence.org
The outpouring of help is humbling to the Pickett family, but the support is most encouraging to an optimistic Zach.
"He's doing great. He's got a great attitude and I'll know he'll get through this," Tod Pickett said.
His son is expected to be released from the hospital on Sept. 21.