Now it's time to help the Hillmans.
The Hillman family suffered a tragic accident on May 28. Mike Hillman, husband to Kris and father of Jeramiah and Brooke Hillman, was knocked off his ladder while trimming a tree.
The accident left Mike with a broken neck and quadriplegic. Family and friends report he is already doing better and on the road to rehabilitation, and community leaders throughout the North Fork Valley are rallying to help the Hillmans move forward.
Ray and Celeste Waske came to the community in 2006 because of the Hillmans. Ray was looking for a plumber and was referred to Mike.
"We fell in love with the North Fork Valley," Ray said at a community gathering in the commons at Paonia High School last Tuesday evening.
The Hillmans hosted the Waskes back in 2006 and welcomed them as new members of the community.
"We were complete strangers to them, but they opened their home to us," Ray said. "The family means so much for our community, never wanting anything in return. You cannot ask for better friends."
Mike is in intensive care and is looking at a three- to four-month stay in the hospital. After that he will come home to Paonia, and he will need a handicapped accessible home to live in while he rehabilitates.
"Now I know why we were brought to the North Fork Valley," Ray said, describing two or three sleepless nights that preceded a vision. "We are going to build the Hillmans a new house."
Inspired by the Waskes, local leaders have formed the Hillman House Trust. A board of directors will lead the volunteer effort to build the Hillmans a new home and fundraising efforts are already off to an outstanding start.
The board is made up of Ray and Celeste Waske, Randal Palmer, Andy Stein, Nicole Walters and Dave Hurr. Jackie Taylor will provide bookkeeping services.
"We specifically chose the people on the board because of their connections and because of their love for Mike and Kris and the community," Celeste said. "Everybody here is involved in the community whether it be the businesses, or the schools, or the churches. They're a wonderful group of people, they all love Mike dearly, and they have a vested interest in it."
The fundraising effort for the Hillman House got off to a rousing start last Tuesday night when Pastor Galen Kinzer of the Friends Church presented the Waskes with a $10,000 check. Church members led a two week u-pick apricot sale to raise funds for the effort.
"The project was phenomenal," Kinzer said. "The community came out and picked and kept picking and buying fruit. It was our privilege to be part of the project these past two weeks."
An ice cream sale at the Teen Center last Saturday was the first of many more fundraisers planned to help the Hillman House Trust.
Future Kids' Pasta Projects will donate to the trust, including this weekend's dinner during the BMW Top O' the Rockies Rally. The Elks Lodge and Shadescapes in Hotchkiss have silent auctions and dinners scheduled for July 29 and August 2, respectively.
Paonia football coach Brent McRae said the Eagles will hold fundraisers and will help out as the kickoff to the season approaches.
There are a variety of options for anyone inspired to volunteer or help construct the Hillman House Trust.
"They can contact myself or Ray, we'll have a Facebook page, we are in the phonebook," Celeste said. "We are happy to accept anything we can get, including ideas. We've already had so much support and one way or another, this is going to happen."