John Paul Richardson has led an active life since the car wreck that nearly claimed his life.
The Greenbrier High graduate often can be found on the basketball court or at the golf course. A group of longtime friends from the area have come together to help him further enjoy his pursuits.
Richardson was paralyzed from the waist down after he fell asleep at the wheel of his Ford F-150 on Sept. 8.
The "Helen Group," which meets once a year for a reunion weekend of golf, shopping and food, has decided to put off its travel plans this year and organize a golf tournament to raise money for Richardson.
The J.P. Invitational Charity Golf Tournament will be held Saturday at Applewood Golf Course in Burke County. Chuck Smith, who organized the tournament, said 144 golfers signed up to participate and that he lined up 70 hole sponsors.
The group's original goal was to raise $5,000, but Smith said they likely will more than double that.
"It is very gratifying, in a day that you see all this corporate greed everywhere, so many people that really wanted to help these people," Smith said. "I'm very thankful to be part of a group that wanted to be involved in doing something for somebody else with no strings attached."
Smith went to school with Richardson's father, Gary, as did many members of the Helen Group. The Butler High School graduates started their reunion tradition in Helen, Ga., after a former classmate died. They have taken trips to Hilton Head Island, Myrtle Beach and Charleston.
Smith said the group initially intended to give John Paul the money they planned to spend on their trip this year, but they decided to organize a golf tournament instead. The tournament has proved popular.
Gary Richardson said his son's condition has improved and that he started playing wheelchair basketball with Champions Made From Adversity and played golf with a specially made golf cart.
"His attitude is wonderful," Richardson said. "He's not slowing down."
He said his son would be free to use the money that was raised however he wished, whether it be for a second wheelchair to play basketball or other medical equipment to aid his active pursuits.
Gary Richardson said he asked friends and family for prayers immediately after the accident. The Helen Group is giving a little more.
"It's just exciting that that many people want to help," he said.
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