Comedy show to benefit former Arnold man paralyzed in swim mishap
Organizing the Matt Taylor Forever Strong Comedy Show is a way for Amy Capiross of Lower Burrell to pay it forward.
Capiross barely knew Taylor, then of Arnold, when he bought her a sandwich on her birthday a few years ago.
“I told him I owed him one,” Capiross said.
That small IOU has turned into an ongoing fundraiser that will continue this Saturday for Taylor, who was partially paralyzed almost two years ago during a swimming accident in Ocean City, Md.
A 2006 Valley High School graduate who turned 25 this month, Taylor said he was about to leave the beach on Aug. 11, 2011, when he jumped into the surf to rinse off. A wave caught him off guard and slammed him into a sandbar.
“I hit my head and it broke my neck,” Taylor said. “I knew I was hurt. I couldn't move my arms or my legs. I ended up drowning.”
His friends pulled him from the water and a bystander helped revive him.
Taylor was flown to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore where he underwent surgery. Doctors inserted titanium plates and screws into his neck because his C5 cervical vertebra was crushed.
He spent two weeks in the hospital and two months at HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital recovering.
After his release from in-patient treatment, Taylor moved into a handicapped-accessible house next to his parents' home in Cecil, Washington County.
Taylor said he has feeling throughout his body, but cannot move from the hips down.
“My right arm came back pretty much fully except for my hand. Neither of my hands work,” Taylor said. “My left triceps (upper arm muscle) was paralyzed for a really long time, but now it's showing signs of starting to work a little bit.”
Dissatisfied with his progress, Taylor said he spent five weeks last summer at Project Walk in Orlando, Fla. Project Walk creates intensive therapy and exercise programs for people with spinal injuries.
Taylor said he was able to rebuild muscles in his back during that therapy. He hopes to return to a Project Walk location in California for more treatment. Taylor said he and his twin sister, Katlyn Taylor Taueetia, also would like to work with the organization to open a branch in Pittsburgh.
Although Taylor has insurance, he said it doesn't cover all of the treatment and equipment he needs.
“It's very hard. My insurance paid for my first wheelchair, a power chair because I couldn't push a manual wheelchair. But it only pays for one wheelchair every five years,” Taylor said, who no longer needs a motorized chair. “My new wheelchair was $5,000 out of pocket. You pretty much have to battle with your insurance.”
That's where Capiross comes in.
She organizes comedy shows around the Pittsburgh region for various charities.
She began hosting them in Taylor's honor at Tarentum's Praha Hotel, which she said owner Ron Lang offers at no charge. This Saturday's show will be the third she's hosted to raise money for Taylor.
“These treatments are really expensive,” Capiross said, noting the last Project Walk bill approached $20,000.
Capiross said several hundred people attended the last comedy show and she hopes for a similar turnout this year. Featured regional comedians donating their time will include James Hamilton, Dan Jenniches, Paris Knight, Matt Light, Mark Mammone, Amber Schiefer, Molly Sharrow, John Winters and Ray Zawodni.
Tickets cost $5 at the door. There also will be a 50-50 raffle during the event.
Capiross said she doesn't have a particular financial goal she's trying to reach. She believes the last benefit raised a couple thousand dollars.
Not only will the money assist Taylor, but Capiross hopes the show, itself, will be uplifting for Taylor, who hopes to attend.
“Laughter's the best form of medicine,” Capiross said. “Unless somebody invents a time machine, you can't take back whatever's happened.
“When you laugh, you always end up feeling better — even if it's just for a little bit.”
“It means everything to me that people are willing to come out and help,” Taylor said. “It's amazing that Amy can get these comedians to give their time for free.”
Capiross said she's been moved by the attitude and strength exuded by Taylor and his family.
“You would think that he's all better, he's so positive,” Capiross said. “That's why I like to help him. He's a strong person. They're a really nice family.
“They deserve it,” Capiross added. “I'm not going to stop doing (the benefits) until he walks.”
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.