By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
When a 23-year-old Killeen man rolled his car and was critically injured Aug. 20, his co-workers at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant made it their job to help "J.D."
Justin David "J.D." Kennedy, 23, was driving on U.S. Highway 190 near Central Texas College at 3 a.m. when he lost control and rolled his vehicle, said his older sister, Nicole Rader.
He was taken by helicopter to Scott & White Hospital in critical condition. He has remained on life support in the Scott & White intensive care unit on a breathing tube as he makes a slow recovery from the accident and multiple surgeries for a broken back, a shattered shoulder blade and several other serious injuries.
While Kennedy's condition is very serious and recovery is uncertain, Rader said her family has been comforted by some progress. On Wednesday, Kennedy opened his eyes and was able to move his fingers enough to grab a hand. He also wiggled his toes in response to a question.
And, as Kennedy and his family focus on recovery, his co-workers at Texas Roadhouse in Killeen are concerned about what Kennedy will face when he recovers.
"When he does wake up, the last thing we want him to worry about is being so overloaded. We just don't want him to start out so far behind," Texas Roadhouse kitchen manager Philip Dunn said.
Kennedy has been a server at Texas Roadhouse for six months and does not have health insurance. The helicopter ride alone cost $13,000, Dunn said.
Dunn organized a fundraiser to ease the burden. Servers, waiters, busboys and kitchen staff at Texas Roadhouse have volunteered to work for free from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday. The profits the restaurant makes minus food costs, approximately 15 percent of net sales, will be donated to a fund for Kennedy. Dunn hopes to raise $5,000.
When Dunn asked for waiters to volunteer, most of the restaurant's 50 waiters did so, but he could only accept 20, so he asked the others to donate in other ways.
The busboys, who get small tip shares off waiters, volunteered their tips.
The Texas Roadhouse restaurants in Killeen and Temple have paid the hotel bills and cooked dinner for Kennedy's family; some relatives came from California and Pennsylvania to be with Kennedy.
Dunn said waiters will begin wearing shirts that say "I ? J.D. Strength. Faith. Courage," instead of the "I ? my job" shirts with the Texas Roadhouse logo.
Dunn has applied for a donation from Andy's Outreach, the Texas Roadhouse employee contribution assistance program. The restaurant has also collected auction prizes and is selling buttons to raise money.
The support from Texas Roadhouse has overwhelmed Rader.
"They're fabulous. I have never had so much community support and love and care from people," Rader said. "He's lucky to have a great boss like that."
Anyone interested in donating to the Justin Kennedy Medical Assistance fund is encouraged to stop by Texas Roadhouse at 3709 E. Central Texas Expressway between 4 and 10 p.m. daily.
Contact Victor O'Brien at email@example.com or (254) 501-7468.