By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — A local businesswoman is hoping to help raise money through an online charity site to help a friend and his family.
Courtney Ciulla, owner of Clubhouse Tickets, hopes to help the family of Paul Richards, a man who is very involved at the SportsZone in Derry, serving as a referee, athlete and mentor. Now, he is battling illness and paralysis.
Clubhouse Tickets is located inside the SportsZone, a place Ciulla calls a friendly, family-oriented location where everyone knows each other.
She wants to help Richards, 33, who was stricken this summer with a staph infection and now faces rehabilitation to help him recover and regain his ability to walk.
In an email, Ciulla said the situation came on suddenly.
“Paul and his family are trying to figure out this current and possible life-altering situation,” Ciulla said. “Medical bills are the last thing on their mind.”
That’s why she is now hoping an online site can help raise money to help the family. The site, youcaring.com/Paul Richards, was started by a fellow teammate and friend and is up and running. It tells Richards’s story and gives people a chance to make a donation to help.
Ciulla said Richards’s spirits remain strong.
“Even after receiving such sudden and overwhelming news, Paul is still smiling and joking every day,” she said. “He has such a warm heart, charismatic personality and contagious laugh.”
Ciulla hopes enough money can be raised to purchase a used van so the family can transport Richards in his wheelchair.
“They (the family) are grateful for the friends, families and even strangers who have gone out of their way to help them through this difficult time,” she said.