Gooooooooooood morning, Waterford!
Well it wasn’t quite like that. But it was close.
Sunday, Robin Williams – yes, the real Robin Williams – appeared in Waterford. For a comedy show? To hang out at the Eugene O’Neill Theater? To make a lot of money doing something ridiculous?
No, to help out a regular guy he never met, Glenn Landers of East Lyme, who was left paralyzed this July after falling awkwardly while jumping on a trampoline. Williams showed up at a fundraiser for Landers in Waterford, and his appearance had an impact: overall, the event raised $35,000 for Landers and his recovery.
“It was amazing,” Nancy Shepard said, who helped organize the event.
This July, Landers was jumping on a trampoline at Shepard’s house when he fell awkwardly and landed on his head. The fall snapped his vertebrate and changed the life of the self-employed electrician forever.
He will likely never walk again and may not be able to breath without a respirator again. Shepard’s friends held a golf tournament this August to raise money for Landers’ recovery and planned on holding another fundraiser this autumn.
That’s when Shepard’s old friend Paul Daversa got involved. Shepard and Daversa hadn’t talked in 30 years, but Daversa’s mother had a severe spinal injury as well. Shepard said Daversa helped pay for some of Landers’ medical care and provided Landers with invaluable advice on what hospitals to go to.
Daversa also agreed to hold a fundraising brunch at his summer home on Niantic River Road for Landers. His brother is a chef, and the idea was to have people pay money to go to the brunch, with all the money going to benefit Landers.
Shepard knew that Williams was coming to the area that weekend to do a comedy show at Mohegan Sun. Using a two-prong approach, they managed to get the famous comedian to come to the fundraiser.
Daversa is on the board of directors of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, a group Williams is involved in, as Williams was a good friend and former roommate of Christopher Reeve. Daversa, through his connections at the foundation, asked if Williams would come to the event.
Additionally, Williams’ sister-in-law grew up in East Lyme and knows Shepard. Shepard had her sister contact her and asked her to get Williams to come, and he agreed to do so at no cost.
“I was shocked,” Shepard said. “I was hoping he was going to come, but I never thought he was.”
Shepard sent out e-mails and Facebook-messaged people telling them to buy tickets to this event where Williams would be making an appearance. Despite a $250 price tag, people were happy to pay, to both help out a good cause and meet Williams.
The goal was to get 80 people to the Niantic River Road home on Sunday for the brunch, and it wound up being 115, Shepard said. Overall, the event raised $35,000 for Landers, with Williams spending about an hour-and-a-half at the event.
Shepard said Williams was accommodating, told jokes and didn’t mind everybody wanting to take photos with him. Shepard took a video of Williams even encouraging Landers.
“It was really amazing,” Shepard said.