Community coming together to help bring man home

Published 2:31 pm Saturday, October 15, 2011

Photo provided Mike Braaten was injured in a motorcycle crash in August and now family members are organizing a benefit to help alleviate bills. - Photo provided

Two months after a severe motorcycle crash left Austin resident Mike Braaten in the hospital, the community is coming together, hoping that he will come home.

Family, friends and many from the community will hold a benefit from 5 to 11 p.m., Oct. 22 at the VFW Post 91 in Austin.

Braaten sustained skull fractures and a brain injury on Aug. 6, when he and others went around a windy corner in Wyoming, and Braaten laid his bike down and collided with an oncoming truck.

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Fortunately, the drivers of the truck and following car were both EMTs, and stayed with Braaten until he was transported to a small hospital in Newcastle, Wyo. From there, he was airlifted to Rapid City Regional Hospital in South Dakota.

Though Braaten spent more than a month in that hospital, it didn’t take long for friends and family to react.

“When Mike got his bill for 53 miles’ air ambulance. … that’s when I decided I had to do something,” said Bev Pitcher, Braaten’s sister.

For several weeks, Pitcher and her good friend, Joan Anderson, has been coordinating the benefit for Braaten, which has been received well thus far.

Pitcher said about 100 businesses have donated to the effort, which will feature live and silent auctions, karaoke, raffle tickets, chair massages, food, jewelry, pictures, wine baskets, gift certificates, cabinets and more.

“I am absolutely overwhelmed with the businesses that came forward and helped with the donations,” she added.

The list of reasons for people to attend the benefit continues to grow, but the biggest reason is because Braaten would have done the same for others, his family said.

“It’s always about everybody else, not him,” said Braaten’s daughter-in-law, Nicole.

Pitcher added Mike is always the first to open his wallet or help with someone else’s work.

Nicole said she and her husband, Scott, and their children have been visiting Mike every weekend at the VA hospital in Minneapolis, where Mike is starting to recover. They are among a growing group of supporters and family members who have been either visiting Mike or showing their concerns on his website: www.caringbridge.ort/visit/mikebraaten. There, people can stay in touch with Mike’s family and even make donations toward his cause: coming back home.

Though he has trouble remembering things, he has been walking and beginning to find his own way around. Family members and doctors will hold another meeting regarding his condition to determine when Mike can return home, where he enjoys motorcycles, classic cars and his grandchildren.