RUTLAND—The community has rallied to raise close to $200,000 for a local family injured after their boat exploded in the Bahamas.
The Schaffer family, including Stefanie, 22, her sister Brooke, 13, their mother Stacey and stepfather Paul Bender, were on a wildlife excursion with 10 U.S. tourists and two tour guides when their boat exploded around 9 a.m. June 30.
Stefanie, a ballet dancer who practiced at the Vermont Center for Dance Education in Rutland, lost both her legs in the accident. As of Sunday, July 8, 2,300 people had donated $148,000 in seven days on gofundme.
It’s impacted the Schaffer’s friends and neighbors as well as strangers.
Some held a bottle drive at Terrill Street in Rutland last week, raising $1,149 for the family. One neighbor strung red ribbons on her trees in support. “Red is a symbol of strength, determination, courage and hope,” the neighbor wrote on the gofundme page.
Sarah Gallagher, Brooke’s math teacher at Barstow Memorial School in Chittenden, has been following updates while on vacation with her family.
Gallagher has taught Brooke math for the past two years and will teach her again next year, as Brooke enters eighth grade.
“She’s athletic and fun to be around, and the best part is that she is humble and kind to her peers,” said Gallagher.
Brooke was selected by faculty this past spring to be the grand marshal for the eighth grade graduation.
Gallagher’s husband, Jamie, a humanities teacher at Barstow, also taught Brooke. He heard about the incident from a school administrative assistant.
While Brooke had bruises from the incident, her mother Stacey broke her right leg, shattered her left ankle and a fractured right wrist with two broken ribs and a contusion on her lungs. Stefanie had two broken arms, a broken wrist, fractured spine and internal injuries to her liver, spleen and kidneys, family members posted on Facebook.
Maleka Jackson, a tourist from Atlanta, died in the accident. The cause of the explosion was still under investigation.
For more information or to donate visit the families GoFundMe page: gofundme.com/stefanie-schaffer-and-family