In what seemed more like a class reunion than a fundraiser, hundreds of former East Rockaway High School students — most from the class of 2010 — as well as teachers, friends and residents who just wanted to contribute, gathered at The Fishery, on East Rockaway’s waterfront, to help their friend and former classmate, Jalisa Barnes, who has been hospitalized for the last three months with a life-threatening condition.
“What a great turnout,” said Nikki Roeill, one of the coordinators of the event and a classmate of Barnes. “It really is like a reunion, and it’s great to see everyone who came out to support her.”
Attendees purchased bracelets at the door, and enjoyed unlimited food and bar service. Some people stopped by just to donate. “I can’t stay, but I wanted to do my part,” said former Deputy Mayor Richard Meagher on his way out the door.
As reported in the Herald last month, Barnes, 21, was infected in May 2012 with a rare and severe blood infection, group A streptococcus, resulting in necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. She has undergone more than 20 surgeries and has many more to come, according to her mother, Keena, writing on www.gofundme.com/teamjay2013, a website dedicated to Jalisa, who has lost both legs and both thumbs and has minimal use of her arms.
She was a two-time conference MVP, Nassau County and New York state volleyball player of the year in 2009. She was on the high honor roll throughout her high school years, played the clarinet and graduated from East Rockaway High early, after signing with the University of Pittsburgh volleyball team in 2010.
“Nikki and her friends put her heart and soul into this event,” said The Fishery’s bar manager, Ken Howley. “What a great group of people that turned out for this girl.”
Don Poland was one of the ERHS teachers who came to support his former student. “This really goes to show you that East Rockaway people are the best in the world,” he said. “We stand together in time of need to help each other out.”
Barnes remains in an undisclosed hospital’s trauma intensive care unit. She is strong, a fighter, and has wowed the surgeons with her progress, Keena wrote on a gofundme.com page that she created for her daughter. “Her life has changed forever, but by the grace of God, she’s alive.”