Kevin Neary [L] with his father, Joe Neary, in front of the wheelchair ramp built by friends of the family.
An old African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. And for Joe Neary it has taken a community of volunteers to help with his son’s recovery.
Nearly two years ago, a gunman’s bullet shattered Kevin Neary’s spine and left him a quadriplegic after a botched robbery in Northern Liberties.
“It’s been an amazing year and three quarters. The generosity of people has been amazing. It’s all these little things. People think, 'Oh I am not doing anything.' I say, 'Yeah you are.' It really helps you as a person to think, 'Wow people are really thinking about Kevin.' It helps you get through things and I mean it’s a lot to get through,” said Joe Neary.
Kevin, now 30, has undergone several operations, endured a lengthy stay a rehabilitation center and has had to adjust to a life he never foresaw.
“I’ve had some ups and downs with trying to progress, with trying new technology and trying to work. Everybody has been so generous with their time and resources. And so I am very grateful and extremely proud of those affiliations,” said Kevin.
This Saturday Joe and Kevin will open the doors of their Upper Chichester Township home on Kelly Drive to thank the many supporters who pitched in to help.
Several groups, including alumni from the University of Pennsylvania, raised more than $50,000 through fundraisers to help with Kevin’s ongoing medical care that was not covered by state insurance or social security. Others have donated time, equipment and manpower to help make Kevin’s home more functional.
Kevin was shot in the neck in November 2011 while walking home from a friend’s house along the 700 block of Bodine Street in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. The shooting was captured on a security camera. Police later arrested 20-year-old Christopher Easter, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison last November.
Neary is a graduate of Salesianum High School in Wilmington and graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania. He had just started a business filling senior nursing positions for local hospitals and was also waiting tables to make ends meet. He was just one block away from his apartment when he was shot.
“As a parent, the worst thing is for something to happen to your children. You get this call from police and they say your son has been critically injured. The blessing is that he is still here…had police not responded as quickly as they did, Kevin would not be here,” said Neary.
The response from the community was also immediate and overwhelming, according to Joe Neary. Within days of the shooting, Kevin’s friends, well-wishers, former classmates, and people living in their Upper Chichester Township community joined forces to help him adjust to his sudden, new life.
“When we first came home last February 2011, the five guys who are friends of mine built an external ramp. Shortly afterwards we knew that we needed to do something in terms of an addition to make the house accessible for him so that he could stay home,” said Joe.
And that’s where Rick Disabatino came in. He is part owner of EDiS Construction Company in Wilmington and sits on the board of directors of Kevin’s former high school. Talking about the shooting still brings him to tears.
“I heard about Kevin getting shot in Philadelphia. I have two sons close to his age. I said, 'What can we do, we’ve got to do something.' I started calling contractors and said, 'Can you help with a donation?' Then it just snowballed from there,” said Disabatino.
He spearheaded a team of contractors who worked together to design and build an addition onto the home, complete with a large living area, bedroom, brand new closets and a shower. All of it, free of charge. It’s a project, McNeary says, that would have cost him $128,000.
“They dug the hole, they poured the concrete, they put the flooring in, they built the wall, they built the ceiling and they built the addition, it’s just unbelievable. I want them to see how all their hard labor paid off,” said Joe.
Kevin had been living in just one room. He says the new addition has made life much better.
“I have a lot more open area and now I have privacy. I feel like I can be a little bit more mobile and a little bit freer now. Everybody has been so generous with their time and resources. I am extremely proud,” said Kevin.`
Kevin's family and friends will host another fundraiser on September 16 at the Wyncote Golf Club. The event has already sold out, according to Joe Neary.
Contact Danielle Johnson at 610.668.5705, Danielle.Johnson@nbcuni.com