Ben Ensign fundraiser exceeds expectations

KENNEWICK -- Ben Ensign continues to improve slowly. His family tells Action News he's no longer on a ventilator and is breathing on his own. And he is showing some slight movement on the right side of his body.

Still, they know Ben's life will probably never be the same again. And that's exactly why many in the community gathered Thursday night at the Branding Iron in downtown Kennewick to raise money and support for the Richland man.

"Everyone's generosity is making such a horrific, horrific incident easier for all of us to deal with," says Ben's mother Sheila Barichello.

She's been standing vigil by her son's hospital bedside for five weeks now, but says it's still too soon to know what his future holds.

"We're so uncertain at this point what Ben's care is going to be like. What equipment we're going to need to purchase, it's all so expensive. His hospital bills are just astronomical."

Those are the very reasons Branding Iron owner Shelly Stockman wanted to help out by hosting the fundraiser.

"Ben is a member of our community that was injured in a tragic accident," says Stockman. "And we feel the family is going to need a lot of assistance."

And that assistance came pouring in as countless customers arrived from all corners of the area.

"I feel it was a very tragic thing that happened," said Bev Swanby. "And I think it's wonderful how the community is supporting his family."

Jerry and Kim Lehman drove from Benton City just to pitch in.

"We heard about this whole thing and we wanted to kind of support the family. Because I think what happened over there is wrong."

"Just trying to picture it if it was my son and what would I do? I can't imagine what he and his family are going through. So anything we can do to help, we're going to do."

And Lynne McCune says, "What happened, I think is terrible. But with the community coming together, I think is amazing."

And many in the community are coming together, despite what has become a divisive issue.

"The gentleman is going to need help," says Stockman. "He's got a daughter that's going to need help. And that's what it's all about. It doesn't matter why it happened, where it happened, how it happened. It just happened."

Stockman had set out to raise $3,500 for Ensign's family. But at last check, they'd collected nearly $6,000, with several more donations still coming in.