This past March 19, Will Orellana was on top of the world as he kissed his fiancée, Tara Banks, goodbye before setting out on his usual cycling expedition. Orellana and Banks were expecting their first child, having celebrated their baby shower, catered by their good friends Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis.
Banks says she was preparing for a day at the beach while Orellana was out, but a sun-filled day wasn't in the cards. "I was standing in the kitchen with beach bags packed, staring at my watch, when the police squad showed up to my front door. I fainted as they began to tell me the love of my life, my best friend, my whole world was hit by a car."
Orellana was struck by a car close to his house in Coral Gables after returing from his morning group ride. Thankfully, he survived, though the prognosis wasn't good. The vibrant, young man's body and brain were shattered.
After waking from a monthlong coma, the 38-year-old Wells Fargo executive was transferred to Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital in Jacksonville, where he was faced with the task of relearning the most basic of functions — how to talk, walk, read, and even manage his own continence. Banks and their new daughter, Vayla, joined him. Also facing the young family was a mountain of bills for ongoing treatment, therapy, and medical procedures.
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Longtime friends Booth and McInnis were devastated by the accident. Booth recalls Tara being one of her first friends after moving to Miami in 2010. Booth says of the pair: "They are such a kind and generous couple who we would attend church with and restaurant-hop with." Booth, who is expecting her first child with McInnis, notes the young father's reaction at the couple's baby shower. "I have never seen a man so high on life and excited about the future with his new family."
Booth and McInnis have decided to step up to help the couple by hosting the Strong Will Benefit to help raise much-needed funds. On Friday, October 21, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Sarsaparilla Club, Miami's best chefs will serve dishes at various culinary tasting tables.
Participating toques include Timon Balloo (Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill and Bocce), Josh Gripper and Adonay Berns Tafur (the Dutch), Phil Bryant (the Local), Eli Jackson (STK), Brian Nasajon (Beaker & Gray), Jason Bamford (Bianca at the Delano), Nicole Votano (Dirt), Cindy Lou (Cindy Lou's Cookies), Michael Saperstein (the Rebel House), and John Suley (Royal Caribbean). The event will also feature a beer garden presented by Funky Buddha and Wynwood Brewing, Ping-Pong, and a silent auction.
Tickets for the Strong Will Benefit cost $75 for general admission and $125 for VIP, which includes a 6 p.m. early entry. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.com, and donations to Will's cause can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.