Fundraiser to support families of children in accident

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 30, 2018

 Christian Pluszczynski, 13, died after an accident Aug. 18 on Harsens Island. A fundraiser Sept. 23 will support his family and the families of the other three children involved in the accident.

Christian Pluszczynski, 13, died after an accident Aug. 18 on Harsens Island. A fundraiser Sept. 23 will support his family and the families of the other three children involved in the accident.

Photo provided by Brian Loridon

 Sitting in the front seat with Pluszczynski was 7-year-old Alyssa Maloney.

Sitting in the front seat with Pluszczynski was 7-year-old Alyssa Maloney.

Photo provided by Brian Loridon

 Connor Loridon, 10, suffered a broken jaw and a severe concussion in the accident.

Connor Loridon, 10, suffered a broken jaw and a severe concussion in the accident.

Photo provided by Brian Loridon

 Ten-year-old Gavin Snarski ran a half-mile back to the adults to tell them of the accident.

Ten-year-old Gavin Snarski ran a half-mile back to the adults to tell them of the accident.

Photo provided by Brian Loridon

ST. CLAIR SHORES — The community is coming together to support several local families after a celebration of the baseball season turned to tragedy on Harsens Island.

When the season wrapped up in August, the Lac St. Clair Bulldogs 2018 10-and-under travel baseball team had won 16 games, lost eight, tied once and won a tournament. 

“We did very well,” said Brian Loridon, of St. Clair Shores, head coach of the team. “We had a great season.”

One of the teammates has family with property on Harsens Island, so they invited the team and their families up for a celebration weekend Aug. 17-19. Loridon said the families stayed in travel trailers and tents to enjoy a weekend full of swimming, kickball, playing on the Slip ’N Slide and more — “just an end-of-the-year event to get everybody together again.”

But sometime around 7:30 p.m. Aug. 18, 10-year-old Gavin Snarski came running back to the group to get help. 

He, 10-year-old Connor Loridon and 7-year-old Alyssa Maloney had been riding in a Polaris RZR 800 four-seater off-road vehicle driven by 13-year-old Christian Pluszczynski, and there had been an accident.

“He hit a tree. We don’t know how,” Loridon said. 

Pluszczynski, of Eastpointe, was in critical condition when he was taken to the hospital. He was pronounced brain-dead Aug. 19, and his family donated his organs to Gift of Life of Michigan.

Snarski, who was sitting in the back seat, broke some of his teeth and needed stitches. He was taken to the hospital and released that same day. Connor Loridon, who was also in the back seat of the vehicle, had a broken jaw and a severe concussion. Maloney, who was sitting in the front seat next to Pluszczynski, had a compound fracture of her left leg and facial injuries. Connor Loridon and Maloney were released from the hospital Aug. 22.

All four children were wearing seat belts, Brian Loridon said.

Now friends, family and the community are coming together to support the four families with a fundraiser Sept. 23 at Veterans Memorial Park in St. Clair Shores, 32400 Jefferson Ave. 

Organized by the Lac St. Clair Bulldogs baseball team and the St. Isaac Jogues Men’s Club, the fundraiser will be held 2-7 p.m. Sept. 23 with a barbecue put on by the St. Clair Shores Hockey Association. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children, and there will be a cash bar with beer and wine sponsored by the Lac Ste. Claire Kiwanis and Kapones Sports Tavern. 

The event will include a silent auction and basket raffles, and fun and games for children and adults, including a dunk tank and a whiffle ball home run derby, said Alex Franz, of St. Clair Shores, a friend of the Pluszczynski family.

There will also be information about and an opportunity to sign up to be an organ donor, a cause that Christian’s parents, Brad and Melissa Pluszczynski, have embraced.

Tim Makinen, communications director with Gift of Life of Michigan, said that Pluszczynski donated his kidneys, heart, liver and lungs. 

“This is one of the remarkable things — that in a time of grief like this, the family is able to think of others, and that’s really the wonder of organ and tissue donation,” Makinen said. “Basically, Christian lives on in the gifts that he provided others.”

One of Pluszczynski’s kidneys went to a 19-year-old woman, the other to a 37-year-old man. Pluszczynski’s heart was donated to an 18-year-old woman, and his liver was donated to a 43-year-old man. Both lungs were donated to a 55-year-old woman.

“It doesn’t just affect the individual that receives an organ — their families, their communities — it has a ripple effect,” Makinen said. “There’s five people now who have received these gifts, which gave them new life.”

Pluszczynski, a member of the 13-and-under Bulldogs team, attended Jefferson Middle School, and his brother, a member of the 10-and-under team, attends Ardmore Elementary School with Connor Loridon. Snarski attends Rodgers Elementary, and Maloney attends Princeton Elementary.

Loridon said that Pluszczynski was a great kid who was always eager to help younger children. 

“This accident happened, but I never had the thought that he was messing around,” Loridon said. “That’s what’s so sad. 

“Even though Christian passed, if you look at who survived, it was the three kids that were with him. He still somehow saved the other three. That’s how we look at it.”

St. Clair Shores Mayor Kip Walby called for a moment of silence for Christian Pluszczynski and the other children during the Aug. 20 City Council meeting. 

“There’s no words to convey comfort at such a tragic loss,” he said. “They’re our family, friends. These people lived here.”

Mike Billiu, a friend of the families through Lac St. Clair Little League, said that there was a lot of support for the families at a candlelight vigil for Christian Pluszczynski and at his funeral. The fundraiser, Billiu said, will help support all four families for whatever long-term expenses they have moving forward.

“Our function is to kind of fill in as that support starts to wane,” he said. 

Loridon said that his family, as well as the Pluszczynski family, belongs to St. Isaac Jogues.

Christian Pluszczynski helped so many people with his organ donation, Loridon said. 

“I think he was able to help a ton of people,” he said. “Even in passing, this is what he’s done.”

Makinen agreed that the family gave five people a wonderful gift.

“We’re always so appreciative of the fact that the family, in this case, can think of others while they’re going through intense grief,” he said.

The fundraiser for the families of the children involved in the accident will be held 2-7 p.m. Sept. 23 at Veterans Memorial Park, 32400 Jefferson Ave. in St. Clair Shores. Tickets will be available at the gate. 

For more information on becoming an organ donor, visit golm.org.