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Colleagues Raise Funds for Injured Paramedic

Group waits on tables at a restaurant to collect money for Brian Slater, who was hurt in a bodysurfing accident. He's now recuperating.

September 17, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

Firefighters and paramedics from three Orange County fire departments served plates of ribs, chicken and salads and "passed the boot" at a restaurant Tuesday to raise funds for a paramedic they said has always been there for them.

Brian Slater, who friends and colleagues say never seemed to run out of generosity or warmth when it came to helping others, is in St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton trying to regain his strength and mobility after a bodysurfing accident that left him in a coma for two days. The 52-year-old Newport Beach Fire Department paramedic was found floating face-down near Orange Street in Newport Beach about 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 30.

On Tuesday, about 20 of his colleagues from Newport Beach, Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa departments greeted customers, waited on tables and asked customers at the Claim Jumper at South Coast Plaza to drop a little something in a firefighter's boot to help the Slater family.

"Brian has already gone through extensive treatment for his injuries and will have to go through an even longer rehabilitation period," said Donna Boston, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Fire Department.

"Brian gives so much to the community that the community wanted to give back to him," she said.

When word got out about the accident, the fire department was overwhelmed with calls from people wanting to know the latest.

Inquiries became so numerous that the department established an Internet site and hotline just for Slater, an unprecedented move. They printed business cards with the Web site address (www.city.newport-beach.ca.usbrianslater) and hotline number -- (949) 644-3111 -- for firefighters to hand out because so many people wanted to know how he's doing, Boston said.

"We can handle 20 to 30 calls" a day, she said, but the department had never dealt with the volume of calls that came in for Slater.

Joe Cucinotti, a friend and firefighter in Fountain Valley, is part of the group that wanted to do something for Slater. He spoke with Larry Bill, who handles community relations for the restaurant company, and the event took off from there.

"I think it's great," said Chris Martinez of Laguna Hills, at the restaurant with her husband, Art, and daughter Linda Noble of Irvine. "I support them any time. Where would we be without them?"

Slater, who was transferred from Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian to St. Jude a week ago, now walks and feeds himself with assistance, Boston said.

Donations to the Slater family fund may be made by check, payable to NBFA Slater Fund. They may be mailed or delivered to the Newport Beach City Employees Federal Credit Union, 425 Old Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, CA 92663.

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