LUTZ, Fla. - Four months ago, John Sparks' life changed dramatically. It was a change that nearly cost him his life.
According to family friend Colleen Trudeau of Saranac, the Tupper Lake native and former Plattsburgh resident was in California when he was accosted by a man March 18. The man was allegedly intoxicated when he began making comments about Sparks' sideburns - comments which Sparks simply shrugged off, Trudeau explained.
The man later confronted Sparks again, this time hitting him over the head and kicking his head into the edge of a curb, said Trudeau.
"The guy was pretty well drunk," Trudeau said. "I mean, he basically tried to kill him over his sideburns."
Though the man was arrested, Sparks suffered severe brain trauma and was in a coma for more than two weeks, explained Trudeau. While in the coma, Sparks also suffered a stroke, which paralyzed his entire left side.
"Everything that could happen to this poor guy has happened to him," she said.
However, Trudeau said in recent weeks, Sparks is on the mend. He now has a metal plate in his skull and is able to walk with assistance from a crutch. His short-term memory is flawed, she added, and doctors have said it could take as much as two years for the 34-year-old's brain to recover from the trauma it endured.
"But, he's been doing a little better every day," said Trudeau. "He's alive, he's walking, he's talking. He's doing 120 percent better."
"We didn't even know if he'd do this well," she admitted. "But, he won't give up."
Sparks is now staying with his parents in Florida as he undergoes routine physical therapy at a nearby rehabilitation center.
As Sparks has no medical insurance, Trudeau has organized a benefit in his honor this Sunday, July 26, at American Legion Post 1619, 219 Rand Hill Road, in West Plattsburgh. The benefit will consist of a motorcycle ride taking off at noon and entertainment by bands from 2-4 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. The event will also include a Chinese auction, raffles, 50/50 drawings and refreshments for purchase.
Proceeds raised from the event will help with costs associated with Sparks' recovery.
A 2008 Harley Davidson V-Rod motorcycle will also be raffled off, with 1,000 tickets being sold at $30 each. Already, 700 tickets have been sold.
The amount of tickets sold is a sign of the community's support for Sparks, said Trudeau.
"Everybody - the whole community - has been just fantastic," she said.
For more information or to make a donation toward this Sunday's event, contact Trudeau at 293-1375 or 566-6600.
Those wishing to send cards wishing Sparks well may do so in care of him to Sparks Ranch, 1027 Wildrose Drive, Lutz Fla. 33549.