By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
A team of Chick-fil-A employees from the Olathe, Kan., restaurant has stepped up to help members of an Asbury family who were seriously injured in a weekend traffic accident.
On Saturday afternoon, John Washburn, his wife, Deborah, and their three daughters, Abby, 19, Samantha, 13, and Karli, 12, were hit head-on in their 2006 Chevy TrailBlazer by a vehicle headed west in an eastbound lane of Interstate 44 in Jasper County.
They were on their way to St. Louis to return Abby to college after Christmas break. John Washburn, 58, and the driver of the other vehicle, Bonnie Weaver, 75, of Tulsa, Okla., died in the crash.
Deborah Washburn and the three daughters were seriously injured and were taken Freeman Hospital West in Joplin. They then were separated and taken to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and to a hospital in Springfield for surgeries.
Tammie Felker, whose daughter, Josie, is a classmate and friend of Samantha’s at Carl Junction Junior High, is the marketing director for Chick-fil-A in Joplin.
“As a mom, it’s heartbreaking,” Felker said Wednesday. “Everyone, so many people, would like to do something, but they don’t know what to do. I was racking my brain trying to figure out something to do to help. It was just tormenting me. What could we do? My son has friends in Kansas City, and I thought maybe they could check on the girls there, make sure they are eating, ask what did they need.
“Then I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and thought of my Chick-fil-A family in the Kansas City area. I knew if I reached out to them, they would help.”
She explained the situation to the Olathe Chick-fil-A marketing director, Kim Petrulis, and had an immediate positive response.
“They were all over it,” Felker said.
Petrulis and other employees are offering up guest bedrooms in their homes to the Washburns’ extended family members from other states who are expected to arrive in Kansas City this weekend.
“Deborah’s mom has been there day and night, and not left,” Felker said. “Kim got in contact with her and offered homes for those coming in. If we ever had to leave suddenly in a situation like that, I imagine the financial burden would be overwhelming.”
Chick-fil-A in Olathe, which is not far from Kansas City, Kan., also is planning to take food to the hospital for family members, starting Monday morning with breakfast.
Felker also contacted Chick-fil-A representatives in Springfield, where employees agreed to help Deborah and Abby, but they were expected to be transferred to Kansas City to join the younger girls on Wednesday.
Today, sixth-grade and eighth-grade classes in Carl Junction are going to begin making get-well cards.
“But we didn’t want the grandmother sitting in the waiting room with sacks of them,” Felker said.
The plan is for Felker to collect them, along with cards and contributions anyone locally wants to make, and send them to Petrulis at the Olathe Chick-fil-A. Employees there have agreed to take them to the hospital, and decorate the girls’ rooms with the cards, balloons and banners.
Gretchen DeMasters, principal at Carl Junction Intermediate School, said the Chick-fil-A in Olathe also extended an offer of guest rooms to classmates or teachers from Carl Junction who want to visit the family at the hospital during the next several weeks.
“I know we would do the same thing if needed,” Felker said.
CHICK-FIL-A IN JOPLIN is accepting cards and contributions for the Washburn family. They may be dropped off there at any time, and they will be sent to the Chick-fil-A in Olathe, where employees will collect them and use them to decorate the family members’ Kansas City hospital rooms.