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The Suburbanite
  • Louisville man, family beating odds after car crash three years ago

  • Nearly three years ago, the Thomas family of Louisville endured a tragedy that would change their lives forever. Jeff and Jennifer Thomas were traveling home after dropping off their youngest daughter at Camp Carl in Ravenna when another driver T-boned their vehicle after dodging another car that ran a red light. The collision left Jeff crushed by metal, according to his wife, Jennifer.

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  • Nearly three years ago, the Thomas family of Louisville endured a tragedy that would change their lives forever. Jeff and Jennifer Thomas were traveling home after dropping off their youngest daughter at Camp Carl in Ravenna when another driver T-boned their vehicle after dodging another car that ran a red light. The collision left Jeff crushed by metal, according to his wife, Jennifer.
    “When I came to — I was knocked out by an airbag — Jeff was buried in twisted metal up to his chest, and I remember thinking there was a high possibility he would not have legs,” Jennifer said.
    Also in the car were the couple’s two young daughters, ages 7 and 9 at the time. Jeff was transferred by life flight to Akron City Hospital, where doctors were unsure whether he would be able to make a recovery.
    “By the next week, Father’s Day, Jeff’s body was shutting down and the girls and I were brought in to say goodbye,” Jennifer said. “Miraculously, though, Jeff survived, though he was in a coma for three months.
    “I was told Jeff wouldn’t make it,” she said. “He did. I was told he’d be a vegetable from a nursing home. He’s not.”
    Jennifer said her husband didn’t speak for three months. The family has turned to God to help them endure.
    “We are now coming up on the three-year mark since the wreck and God is still doing a work in Jeff,” Jennifer said. “He will never be the same, and neither will I or our daughters. We will be stronger, humbler and of more use to this world as ambassadors for Jesus and his kingdom.”
    Jeff, once an electrical engineer at Diebold, was called “a family man” by family friend Sarah Smith. Smith and her husband met the Thomas family at The Chapel’s Green campus, the church where many people have helped the family get back on their feet.
    “Jeff was a very, very intelligent guy,” Smith said. “He was valedictorian of his high school. He was very athletic, he played recreational basketball and ran. He was very involved in the community and at church.”
    Smith said the accident has left Jeff with traumatic brain injury, and he is now confined to a wheelchair. He has difficulty holding a conversation and managing small tasks on his own. Still, she said the doctors have given him no long-term prognosis, but the family hopes he will be able to walk again someday.
    “The brain is such a mysterious thing, so they don’t have any long-term prognosis for him,” Smith said. “It’s a very long healing and nobody knows exactly what the outcome will be.”
    After seeing the way the accident affected the Thomas family both emotionally and financially, Smith, along with friend and fellow church-goer Chelsea Teeple, decided to organize a fundraiser for the family last year, and are perpetuating their giving by hosting it again this year.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Jeff and Jennifer are very giving people, and even in the midst of this tragedy, Jennifer and their girls are still giving back in whatever way they can,” Smith said. “Ultimately, Chelsea and I are doing this because we love them.”
    Smith and Teeple organized the second-annual scrapbooking fundraiser for the Thomas family where people are invited to come together to scrapbook and raise money for the family. The event will feature 14 home-based business consultants with representatives for Arbonne, Creative Memories, Pampered Chef, Premier Designs, Thirty-One, Usborne Books, Mary Kay, Scentsy, Stampin’ Up, ViSalus, Tupperware, Tastefully Simple, Velata and Grace Adele. All of the consultants are volunteering their time and giving 100 percent of their profits back to the Thomas family.
    Smith said there will also be raffles and silent auctions at the event.
    “In addition, we have gift certificates or items from Heather Pelko Photography, Smuckers, Camp Carl, Tre Belle, A Thousand Words Photography, 440 Performance, North Canton Playhouse, Signature Hair Studio, 8 Count Dance Studio, AmyLyn Photography, Pancho’s Mexican Grille, Cookie Lee Jewelry and other items from local craftswomen,” she said.
     The fundraiser is set for 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 13 at Parkside Church, 4520 S. Arlington Road in Green. The cost is $25 per person and includes dinner. Pre-registration is required, as space is limited.
    Smith said that while Jeff was insured at the time of the accident, the effects of his accident have left them close to losing their home. All the money taken in from the event will help the Thomas family keep their home in Louisville.
    For more information on the Thomas family or to register for the event, visit www.supportjeff.com.