Fifteen dollars at the Whistle Stop Saturday, Oct. 12, will get you a full afternoon of live music and entertainment, plus food from some of the best-known restaurants in the Upper Keys.
More importantly, your money will go toward 2013 Coral Shores High School graduate Mike Vaughn, who is fighting to regain his vision after the retina in his left eye detached early last month, leaving him blind.
Vaughn, 18, lost vision in his right eye when a sports injury caused that retina to detach nine years ago. Doctors now suspect he might suffer from Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder of the body's connective tissue, Vaughn said.
Though he's insured, his family is anticipating treatments will cost around $40,000 out-of-pocket. Already, Vaughn has had two surgeries since Sept. 10 in order to reattach his left retina and make sure it stays attached. A third surgery is planned as well.
The procedures have forced Vaughn to protect his eye by spending all of his time lying face down on a massage table. But he might be able to be upright by Saturday. Either way, Vaughn plans to be at the fundraiser.
"I'm super stoked to be around my family and friends," he said. "The support from the community is really amazing."
Amazing is how some would describe Vaughn's record at Coral Shores. He graduated third in his class last year with a grade point average well above 4.0. In addition, he was a prodigious volunteer, logging more than 700 hours, much of it with the school's Performing Arts Center, as he pursued his passion for drums and music in general.
Vaughn was also deeply involved in producing shows for the non-profit Islamorada Community Entertainment.
"He's one of the finest young men I've ever met," Coral Shores PAC Manager Scott Cockrell said. "That's the truth. He's likeable and sociable [and] highly dependable."
Over the summer Vaughn, wasting no time, began his studies at Florida State University's College of Music. He completed the summer term and was back in Tallahassee for the beginning of the fall semester when, on Sept. 3, he started to lose his vision in his left eye. Because he had suffered a similar experience as a child, Vaughn said he knew immediately that his retina was detaching.
His vision gradually went away over the next four days. Vaughn compared the sensation to very slowly sliding a piece of paper over his eye.
But he didn't panic.
"I wasn't too worried about it," he said. "I knew no matter what, the most important thing for me to do was make sure I had everything in order. I've never been one to fret about bad things. I just take things with a grain of salt and focus on what has to be done."
Testament to that, Vaughn even asked his Coral Shores friend Nyan Feder, who also attends FSU, to type a class paper for him while he dictated. Ultimately, Vaughn had to suspend his studies until next semester. But on Sept. 10, the day of his first surgery, he learned he'd aced the paper, Vaughn's father, Mike Sr., said.
Vaughn had his second surgery on Sept. 24. As part of the procedures, doctors introduced a bubble of gas into his left eye in order to hold the reattached retina in place. As the gas evaporates over the course of the next few weeks, Vaughn's vision could return.
"I've got my hopes up," he said.
In the meantime, Saturday's benefit at the Whistle Stop, mile marker 82.6, oceanside, will help both the spirits and finances of Vaughn and his parents.
Scheduled to last from 2 to 8 p.m., the event features live music from Dave Feder, Jimmy Hawkins, Micah, Scott Youngberg and other local acts.
The $15 admission ($10 for children under 12) includes all you-can-eat food catered by Ziggie & Mad Dog's, Lazy Days, Green Turtle Inn, Island Grill and more restaurants. An auction and raffle will be held, featuring items such as dolphin swims, spa treatments and hotel stays. Raffle tickets cost $1.
Event organizers are accepting auction-item donations and money. Cash donations can be made directly through the Michael S. Vaughn Benefit Fund at Capital Bank, or at the Whistle Stop, the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce and Key Kritters Pet Store in Key Largo. Keys Kritters will match the first $1,000 donated at its store to assist the Vaughns.
For more information, contact Wayne Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (305) 394-5219.