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Community rallies at comedy event for injured Brentwood boy

Matthew Maldonado, center, greets friends at a special

Matthew Maldonado, center, greets friends at a special fundraiser and benefit show to help with his son Donovan "Donny" Maldonado's recovery efforts, Thursday evening, May 5, 2016, at Brentwood High School. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Many questions remain about Donovan Maldonado’s future, but one thing is clear to his parents: they aren’t going to have to face them alone.

Friends and neighbors have rallied around the family of the 13-year-old Brentwood boy, known as Donny, who was struck by a car and critically injured while walking home from Brentwood North Middle school on Jan. 12. As he recovers from two months in a coma and severe injuries, schools and commuity organizations hosted a comedy event Thursday night to help pay for his medical care.

The event, hosted by Brentwood High School, Brentwood North Middle School, Brentwood Alumni Association and friends and family, sold more than 400 tickets for a night of comedy performances and music, said the boy’s mother, Laura Garces-Maldonado. Just 100 people showed up at the Brentwood High School auditorium Thursday night, she said.

“We knew some family and friends would be there for us and we didn’t know the community and especially the schools would be so supportive the way they have been,” said Garces-Maldonado.

Matt Gengler, principal at Brentwood North, said the school district has loaned its support not only for Donny’s sake, but to assist the entire family. Donny’s father, Matt Maldonado, grew up in Brentwood and Donny’s older brother Tavian, 17, attends Brentwood High School.

The comedy show is the latest effort to help the family — students have also sold T-shirts and hosted card-making sessions to show their support.

“We got a very genuine and sincere response from people who wanted to visit [Donny], people who wanted to do more,” Gengler said. “We even had a spirit week with a day dedicated as a Donny day.”

Matt Maldonado came up with the idea to hold a comedy night, something Donny would love, after realizing he knew some comedians through friends and invited them to the event. The schools helped market and provided a venue.

“Donovan is a clown, he was always making faces,” Garces-Maldonado said. “He really liked Jim Carrey, the way he would use his body to make people laugh.”

Donny was struck while walking toward his block, the family said, and the accident left him with head trauma, a ruptured spleen, damaged organs and broken bones. Garces-Maldonado said she was at work in Queens when she received a call from her neighbor.

“She said Donovan got hit by a car. I thought it was maybe something minor,” she said. “When I asked if he was okay, she avoided my question.”

He’s now out of the coma, but the recovery process is arduous, she said. He requires speech, physical and occupational therapy on a daily basis and still cannot talk or walk, she said.

“I still don’t know if he recognizes me or just knows me because I’ve been here every day,” Garces-Maldonado said. “Some days are better than others. I want to see him walk, I want to hear his voice again.”

The family continues to maintain a GoFundMe page they set up days after the accident. That fundraiser has collected $24,000 so far.

“There is something that remarkably happens in communities where many good intentions and good people step up for community members and families that have these very difficult obstacles,” Gengler said. “The other side of it is seeing people come together.”

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