HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – Oakcrest High School has instituted “Denim Day,” where staff members can wear jeans on designated days and pay a $5 donation toward various charitable causes.
The school year’s first “Denim Day” on Sept. 22 raised $500. Those funds were earmarked for the Bryan Criales Medical Fund. Criales, a 2012 graduate of the school, moved to Florida with his family where he had dreams of becoming a police officer.
Those dreams came to an abrupt halt on Dec. 13, 2015 when the 22-year-old, his sister Carmen and their mother Elisa were involved in a traffic accident with a motorist who was traveling the wrong way on I-95. Carmen was killed and both Bryan and his mother suffered critical injuries.
Bryan suffered severe brain trauma and swelling and bruising. He had four brain surgeries, one involving the removal a part of his skull to allow for swelling. He also had multiple fractures in his shoulders, right knee, toes, pelvis and he had a part of his liver removed. He spent six weeks in coma.
The family has organized a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $50,000 to help with the medical costs that continue to climb. To date, $18,569 has been pledged.
Oakcrest Business Education teacher Brandon Wise spearheaded the effort to raise the funds for Bryan.
“Oakcrest has always been like a family,” Wise said. “When students or staff need help, we rally around them. Even though Bryan is no longer a student of ours, he remains part of the Oakcrest family. When I first saw his story, I knew we could do something for him. His family is doing as much as they can with his medical bills, however they are unable to afford the proper rehabilitation that he needs."
Bryan's uncle David Criales has been managing the GoFundMe page.
"On behalf of Bryan and my family we thank you for your valuable support and for still thinking about Bryan who was your former student at Oakcrest," he said. "Up to this day, Bryan is still recovering from his traumatic brain injury through several therapies and the support of his family, friends and people who still remember him as you and his teachers at Oakcrest. I have high hopes that Bryan will be the same kid that you made him into, and we can't wait to hear him talking and laughing as he used to. I have no words to describe how much this means for them. We will use this money in a new treatment that is giving great improvements with patients like Bryan. Please thank everyone again for the donation."
Those wishing to help Bryan in his ongoing treatment to recover from his injuries can go to his page, Bryan Criales Medical Fund, on GoFundMe.com.