Local News

Community Pledges To Help Hit-And-Run Victim

Posted April 30, 2004

— A former high school football coach is out of a coma. Gary Weller was one of five people hit when a driver went on a hit-and-run rampage two weeks ago. He still has a long recovery ahead of him, but the community will not let him tackle it alone.

For 14 years, Weller roamed the sidelines of Pine Forest High School. When he retired from coaching football, people saw him on the move, running through his neighborhood until police say Abdullah Shareef stole a Fayetteville city van and ran over five pedestrians, including Weller. He later ended up in a coma.

"I can't believe it. How can you believe things like that? Here, the man is jogging down the street and next thing you know, he's in a hospital in Chapel Hill," business owner Dino Calevas said.

Now, Weller is out of the coma, but he is still too weak to have the surgery he needs.

"[He'll] probably need two hip replacements, two knee replacements, just about everything needs to be replaced from the waist down as far as bones go," said Robert Barnes Jr., Weller's friend.

Barnes is putting together a golf tournament fund-raiser for Weller at Baywood Country Club, and he is not the only one helping out. Two restaurants are also raising money. Another place plans to sell barbecue plates.

"I know he's going to need the money because I've been through that," Calevas said.

One seafood restaurant is hosting "Gary Weller Night Out."

"It's just a way for the community to come together and show Gary how much we care for him," said Jimmy Peaden, of Peaden's Seafood.

All three fund-raising events take place the weekend of May 15. "Gary Weller Night Out" will be held from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 15 at Peaden's Seafood. The barbecue plate sale will be held May 16 at Brickoven Pizzeria in Fayetteville. Also on May 16, "Golfing With Gary" will be at Baywood Country Club. Organizers hope to raise $35,000 for Weller's recovery.

Investigators said Shareef is still undergoing mental evaluations at Dorothea Dix in Raleigh. They believe the tests could take weeks. After that, prosecutors will decide how to proceed with the case.

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