Friends of accident victim find obstacles to generosity

Brenda Schlegel, Maija Kropp and other friends of motorcycle accident victim Clifford Smith have learned that helping someone can get complicated as they work to raise money for the Mount Airy resident.

Mr. Smith, 25, remains in the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in bTC Baltimore, where he is recovering from a motorcycle accident during the early hours of May 25. The accident resulted in the above-the-knees amputation of both his legs.


Mr. Smith is a self-employed roofer who has no medical insurance. He had the single-vehicle accident the first evening he rode his new motorcycle.

"He's extremely lucky to be alive," Mrs. Schlegel said. "Fortunately, he feels that same way."


Mr. Smith's friends responded to his misfortune by embarking on a fund-raising crusade to pay for state-of-the-art artificial legs.

"Our original goal was $40,000," Mrs. Kropp said. "He'll have bills forever. If we can help him get his legs and have enough to pay off some of his medical bills, that would be great."

A trust fund was established for Mr. Smith at Laurel Federal Savings Bank in Monrovia. Plans began for a raffle and a fund-raiser in Scaggsville July 29. Jars were distributed to businesses in Mount Airy, Woodbine, Glenelg and Sykesville to collect donations. The group also organized a table to gather donations at last week's Mount Airy Lions Club Carnival.

More than $5,200 had been raised by Wednesday, Mrs. Kropp said. Donations have ranged from coins to a $1,000 check from the Mount Airy Jaycees.

"The support from the town of Mount Airy has been absolutely overwhelming," Mrs. Kropp said.

Complications arose when the group tried to get space at this summer's Howard County Fair, Mrs. Schlegel said, because the fund-raisers learned that they must to be a nonprofit organization.

Jennifer Light of Maryland's office of the secretary of state explained that a group in Maryland that solicits charitable contributions must be registered. One requirement is evidence of 501.3(c) tax-exempt status, in the form of a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. It's a process that can take up to 18 months in Maryland; it involves several state agencies and various fees.

"It's a lot of work," Ms. Light said.


The raffle to benefit Cliff Smith has been delayed until a sponsor with nonprofit status is located. At its meeting Tuesday, the group drafted letters asking local service organizations for support.

Planning continues for a major fund-raiser, but the date has been tentatively changed to Aug. 26 at Kiwanis Park in Ellicott City. The group's members also hope local businesses will help bear the cost of sponsoring the event with food and cash donations, Mrs. Schlegel said.

Mr. Smith's friends and family continue to search for sponsorship from a charitable group.

"We need help now. We want all the money to go to Cliff," Mrs. Schlegel said. "We don't want to raise money to spend on becoming a nonprofit organization."

Dealing with the red tape has been the most frustrating part of trying to help Mr. Smith, she said.

"It seems to me all we want to do is get him a pair of legs. It's going to break my heart to tell him we can't do it because of red tape," she said. "If 40,000 people just gave us a dollar, we'd be OK."


Mrs. Schlegel said she met Cliff Smith seven years ago when he was dating her daughter, Kim. He was an "athletic and handsome" man who helped with the dishes and mowed the lawn of the Schlegels' Woodbine home. He soon became "part of the family" and when Kim and Cliff broke up, he and the family continued to be friends.

Mr. Smith just wants to get new legs and get on with his life, Mrs. Schlegel said. He recently asked his girlfriend, Shannon Berrier, to marry him and she accepted. "He's very worthy of help," Mrs. Schlegel said.

She said she is very familiar with the importance of having artificial limbs that fit well; her father, who died 12 years ago, was a double, below-the-knee amputee with uncomfortable prostheses.

"He got by on what he had, but it was difficult," she said. "I think that is the way Cliff would be -- not very mobile if he has to use the bottom grade.

"I've seen tapes of double amputees playing basketball and running. That's what keeps me going. That's what I want for Cliff. They've got some incredible stuff out there."

Donations may be made to the Cliff Smith Trust Fund, in care of S&K; Associates, 1105 Shaffersville Road, Mount Airy 21771. To offer help or advice, call Mrs. Schlegel at (410) 549-3140 or Mrs. Kropp at (301) 829-2512.



Don't miss the opportunity to meet author Jerdine Nolan, who will visit the Children's Department of Mount Airy Branch Library at 1 p.m. Monday.

Ms. Nolan, who wrote "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm," will conduct a story time for children ages 4 and older. Preregistration is required and space is limited. The author will have copies of her books available to purchase. For information or to register, call (301) 829-5290.


Winfield Community Fire Department will hold a craft show and flea market Sept. 16 on the carnival grounds behind the firehouse at 1320 W. Old Liberty Road in Winfield. Call (410) 795-0774 to reserve a space.



Congratulations to the three 1995 graduates of South Carroll High School who were awarded scholarships by Mount Airy's American Legion Auxiliary Gold Star Unit 191.

Sarah McGinley, who will attend Mount St. Mary's College, was awarded $500 (to study medicine). Bonnie Lynne Borland, who will attend Carroll Community College, was awarded $750 (teaching). And April Hall, who will attend the University of Maryland, was awarded $750 (science and engineering).

Auxiliary publicity chairwoman Evaleen Leon said the criteria for the scholarships are outstanding grades and achievements in extracurricular activities at school and in the community.