PATTON TOWNSHIP — Ever since hearing about Adam Hartswick losing his legs in combat, Otto’s owner Roger Garthwaite has tried to think of a way to honor him.
Garthwaite, an old acquaintance of Hartswick’s mom, Morgen Hummel, knew he had to do something, and one night before falling asleep, it hit him.
Instead of decorating the 20-foot Otto’s Christmas tree with ornaments like usual, he could use it as a way to help with Hartswick’s medical bills and show public support.
“I couldn’t sleep one night and was thinking of Adam and what we might be able to do for him as a business, and the idea came to me to sell red, white and blue ribbons on the tree.”
Hartswick was wounded in May by an by IED blast while treating injured soldiers in Afghansitan. After treatment in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., he walked again with a cane and training prosthetic legs.
Each ribbon cost $5 that went directly to Hartswick and his family. Originally, Garthwaite set the goal at 1,000 ribbons on the tree, but after reaching that total in two weeks, he bumped it up to 1,500. Otto’s also contributed $1,000 to the fund.
He knew the community was generous and he expected the original goal to be obtainable, but he never imaged they would reach the number so quickly.
Now with about 1,375 ribbons sold for the tree, they have until Tuesday to sell a few more and reach the inflated goal.
Another surprising development was support of people outside the area who may not have any connection to Hartswick or Centre County. He said one person from out of town bought 50 ribbons.
He’s hoping the effort can act as an example for other communities that have people in the same situation as Hartswick.
“Adam’s a hometown hero.” he said. “There are thousands of Adam’s all over the country that are struggling with all sorts of issues.”
It started as just an idea to help Hartswick out, but with increased attention and all the support, he said it’s a way to raise awareness of other people who served the country in the armed forces.
Garthwaite didn’t have plans to make the fundraiser a yearly tradition, but people have approached him saying they have ideas for next year. He said it could be something they continue moving forward.
Either way, he urged people to support local causes in the next year, whether it be Toys for Tots, the food bank or anything else that helps out someone less fortunate.
“Make 2014 the year that you’re going to take on a cause,” he said.
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.