HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) — A fundraiser held Saturday for a Hollywood firefighter who broke his neck in a skimboard accident and remains hospitalized will help the family pay for mounting medical bills.

Derek Avilez, who has worked for the Hollywood Fire Rescue Department for four years, was off-duty on Thursday, Sept. 30th. He, his wife and three children went to the beach to enjoy the gorgeous weather.

While skimboarding in the surf, one of his favorite pastimes, he did a flip and landed on his head, breaking his neck. His injury has caused paralysis and the inability to breathe on his own. He remains hospitalized, but is expected to start rehabilitation at Jackson Memorial Hospital soon.

“Just seeing him lay in that bed without being able to move, it kills you,” Priscilla Avilez, Derek’s wife, said about a week after the accident. “But knowing how many people really do love him and care about him, it makes you feel better. It makes you want to keep going.”

Avilez’s mother Renelle is drawing solace and strength from the community and her faith.

“It’s not easy to see your child the way our son is right now, but God is our strength,” Renelle said.

It’s easy to see just how much Derek means to his friends and the community as a whole. A Facebook page set up for Derek has more than 2,000 people signed up, sending prayers and thoughts.

A fellow firefighter created bracelets that have Derek’s name on one side and the word “Recovery” on the other. Proceeds from the sale of the bands will help pay some of Derek’s medical expenses.

Derek does have health insurance, but his family knows this could be a long recovery and insurance may not cover all of their bills.

Doctors hope he will be able to walk out of the hospital on his own, eventually.


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