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Benefit for Zach Steele to raise  funds, awareness

As he underwent surgeries and other procedures, his father, Sonny Steele, certainly wasn’t thinking about medical bills. And even when the bills started arriving in the mail, he said he was still too proud to ask for help.

“But it started to spiral out of control,” Priscilla Ross, a friend of the family, said of the bills. Her son, Sebastian, is a good friend of Steele’s.

Ross convinced Sonny Steele that holding a benefit concert would raise money to help pay the bills and would be a great way to fête Steele, his return home and his miraculous recovery.

“We just want it to be a celebration of Zach,” she said. They’re calling it the Zach is Back! Benefit and Music Festival.

They’re also hoping the event will raise awareness about depression and suicide prevention. Professionals from Clinical & Support Options, a Valley nonprofit that helps people with depression and other mental health issues get help, will be there to answer questions.

When Sonny Steele agreed to the benefit, he and Ross sat down and tried to figure out how much they needed to raise. The number they came up with was $25,000.

While the family’s insurance company has covered the majority of Steele’s care, there were still thousands of dollars in medical bills that Sonny Steele needed to cover. He tried to file for disability for his son, but was denied, and is in the process or trying again.

There are costs he didn’t consider until his son came home, such as the $278 per week that he has to pay for the prescription food he eats through a feeding tube, at least until his swallowing improves.

And then there’s the plastic surgeries to make his face more symmetrical, due to start in about three months. “They’re not covered because it’s considered elective,” Sonny Steele explained.

The Zach is Back! benefit takes place July 28 starting at 12:30 p.m. at Look Park’s Pines Theater. Local bands playing the show include Cup of Joe, Xeno Paradox, Sun Parade, Untitled and Glad Machine.

There will also be food, raffles, and activities for kids. T-shirts and “Zephyr” hacky sacks, custom-designed and produced in honor of Steele, will be for sale. Steele was a hacky sack master before his broken bones waylaid him. He said he’s working to get back those skills so he can hack again. “I’m gonna get there,” he said.

Ross said people from all over Northampton, some of whom do not know Steele, have contacted her about helping with the benefit.

“It’s kind of restored my faith in humanity,” Sonny Steele said of the support. “It’s a great community.”

For more information about the event, to donate or to purchase tickets, visit www.zachisback2013.com. Tickets to the event are $25 for adults 19 and over and $15 for those 5 to 18, and free for those 5 and under.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.


Northampton teen who jumped  off parking garage talks about depression, suicide — and recovery

Monday, July 1, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — Sitting on his living room couch last week, 18-year-old Zachary Steele somberly spread his arms wide as he recounted how he stood at the top of the E.J. Gare parking garage in downtown Northampton March 15 at 7:30 p.m., moments before he closed his eyes and jumped to what he thought would be his death. Four months after …

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