MASSILLON, Ohio - The Perry Panthers and Massillon Tigers are fierce rivals on the football field, but on Thursday night the teams and their fans will unite to raise money and show support for injured teacher Sharon Budd.
Volunteers will be both inside and outside the gates of Perry Stadium accepting donations and selling wristbands and t-shirts that read, "KEEP CALM AND STAY #BUDDSTRONG."
The fundraiser is being sponsored by Radius Hospitality, Perry Local Schools and Massillon City Schools.
"In a way, the rivalry between the two sports teams is almost secondary to watching this community, the Massillon community, come together for Sharon," said Marty Bowe, superintendent of Perry Local Schools.
In the hallways of Massillon Washington High School Thursday afternoon, cheerleaders proudly wore the t-shirts and pointed our that Budd graduated from their school.
"I think it's just good for the Massillon community to come together and not only have the rivalry, but to also show that it's not just all about sports," said Hannah Jones.
"We just all talked about how much of a tragedy it is. She's gone through so much and she hasn't done anything to deserve this. No one does," added fellow cheerleader LeeAnn Burczynski.
Budd, a mother of four and a language arts teacher at Edison Middle School, was critically injured on July 10 when a large boulder came crashing through the windshield of the family car as they were traveling to New York City.
On Wednesday, doctors at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania performed an 8-hour surgery.
Surgeons replaced a section of her skull that was removed with a piece of a medical plastic skull. They also removed her right eye. However, family and friends are encouraged that she still has vision in her left eye.
"The doctor showed her a flashlight and said, 'What does this do?' She said, 'It illuminates a room.' That's Sharon. That's classic Sharon," Bowe said.
Police said the rock that severely hurt the beloved teacher was the size of a volleyball. Four teenagers have been charged in connection with the incident.
Nearly $100,000 has been raised through websites and various fundraisers to help offset medicals costs and Budd's eventual physical therapy needs.
"Every time I hear a new update or a story or read something on Twitter, because they do update the Twitter page, it's very emotional," said family friend Cathie Pape.
Budd's husband, Randy, will be at the game on Thursday night and told NewsChannel5 that he's amazed how the two communities have come together to help Sharon.
"It's very humbling. My family is absolutely full of gratitude," Randy Budd said.
In addition to the t-shirt sales, there will be raffle drawings for complimentary stays at Atwood Resort, Holiday Inn Boardman and Residence Inn by Marriott Fairlawn, provided by Radius Hospitality, Randy's employer.
A benevolent fund has also been established at First Merit Bank. Donations can be made at any branch.