OCOEE — Expect to see yellow if you walk into Citrus Elementary School this Friday, or any upcoming Friday, for that matter.
Students and staff are dressing in the bright color — and paying $1 to do so — in support of 10-year-old Aubrey Clark, a fifth-grader who was severely injured when an SUV struck her after school Jan. 20. Citrus is also selling yellow courage bracelets for $1 apiece.
Windermere Elementary is honoring Aubrey, too, by wearing yellow on Thursdays and, so far, has raised $1,200 for the Clarks.
The community has rallied around the family for the last two weeks, planning fundraisers and holding prayer vigils for the Ocoee girl. Ocoee police arrested 40-year-old Lastevie V. Howard Jan. 31 and charged him with leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury and reckless driving with great bodily harm.
Aubrey and a friend were walking their bicycles near the intersection of Clarke and Silver Star roads when Howard exited the Walgreens by driving out of the entrance and hopped the curb, striking both children, police said. Ten-year-old Jordan El-Ouadi was slightly injured, but Aubrey has been in the intensive-care unit at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children since the incident.
According to an Ocoee Police Department update, Aubrey remained in critical condition following a second surgery Jan. 30 to relieve brain swelling. Recent reports stated there was 80% damage to the left side of her brain and 20% to her right, as well as some to her cerebral cortex.
Family friends are posting updates on the Aubrey’s Angels Facebook page, including this message Tuesday morning: “Good morning, Aubrey’s Angels supporters. On behalf of Aubrey’s family, we would like to thank you for all of the continued love and support that you have shown. It really is amazing! There are no major changes in Aubrey’s condition. She remains in critical condition in ICU. An MRI is scheduled later on this week.”
More than 6,100 people are following the Facebook posts and staying apprised of Aubrey’s situation. A prayer sheet was shared for anyone interested in signing up for a 10-minute prayer slot, and friends set up a website to coordinate meals to be taken to the hospital: takethemameal.com (password is 2004).
Teachers at Citrus Elementary posted a Facebook photo of them wearing yellow last Friday with a message: “Let’s honor Aubrey from Citrus Elementary in hopes of a speedy recovery. All proceeds raised will go to Aubrey and her family.”
Social media has been extremely helpful in sharing information about area fundraisers to help the Clarks with soaring medical bills. In the last week, a group of young people washed cars at Tijuana Flats in Winter Garden, a bingo benefit was held at the Winter Garden Elks Lodge, and children in two neighborhoods, including Aubrey’s, set up lemonade stands. A shooting-range event took place in St. Cloud, and a blood drive was held at the Orlando Fire Department’s Station 1.
Aubrey’s father, Danny Clark, is a firefighter with the Osceola County Fire Department, and departments across Central Florida have reached out to the Clark family, including the Volusia County firefighters, who donated $1,600 to the family. Fellow firefighters and leaders at the Osceola department have provided constant support to Clark since the crash two weeks ago.
Osceola FD Benevolent, a 501c3 organization that assists firefighters and the public through charitable work, has set up an account to help cover expenses related to having a child in the hospital.
Donations have been pouring in from the community, as well as students across West Orange County. Lindsay Tabora, Aubrey’s fifth-grade teacher, said Citrus students are spending more than the required dollar for the spirit bracelets, and parents are giving in the car rider line and at the front office. Westbrooke Elementary has sold 400 bracelets, Pinewood Elementary has sold 200, and other schools are requesting them. Ocoee Middle is donating its snack money.
A photo was taken of the fifth-graders and the school staff in yellow, and a large print of the picture is being hung on Aubrey’s hospital wall for encouragement.
And this was posted on Facebook by Windermere Elementary: “Wear yellow for Aubrey each Thursday as she heals. This is a powerful, positive visual statement of love, support and prayers for her family and our community.”
Multiple events have been planned in the coming weeks to raise funds for Aubrey Clark's family. Anyone wanting to make a donation but unable to attend a fundraiser can do so on this website: osceolafdbenevolent.org.
+ Feb. 8 — A silent auction on various donated gifts takes place from noon to 6 p.m. at Mulberry Street Bar and Grill, 3831 Avalon Park Blvd., Orlando. To donate an item, contact Bill Gross at [email protected].
+Feb 14-15 — Aubrey's Angels Charity Baseball Tournament at Osceola County Softball Complex, 1900 Ballpark Road, Kissimmee. The registration fee is $200 for 9U-12U; there are no umpire fees. All teams will be accepted, including Little League, AAU, USSSA, GSA, Nations and Triple Crown.
+ Feb. 21 — "Workout of the Day" for Aubrey at CrossFit Panoply, 2004 Jaffa Drive, Suite B, St. Cloud. It starts at 9 a.m.
+ Feb. 28 — Fla_Flossin Truck Meet at Frank's Place, 146 N. Clarke Road, Ocoee. The event starts at 6 p.m. There is a $10 registration fee.