Standing by the side of U.S. 31, a Columbus North baseball player was trying to come up with a way to get some more attention.

Junior second baseman Cooper Trinkle was holding a #JoshStrong sign near the highway Wednesday, trying to cajole passers-by into stopping at Chevrolet of Columbus to purchase a hot dog meal.

Proceeds from those meals will be used to buy a new, larger vehicle for the Josh Speidel family, as the Columbus North basketball standout recently returned home after being hospitalized for four months in Indianapolis recovering from a car accident.

Trinkle and his fellow baseball players, who had “drum up the crowd” duty at the beginning of the event, decided a microphone would be just the thing.

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Luckily a former Columbus mayor works at the dealership and called in a favor with the Columbus Police Department.

“It’s on its way, kid,” former Mayor Fred Armstrong said, joking that he hoped it didn’t come with a siren.

Such is the way that the Columbus community continues to reach out to help Josh Speidel and his family, as the soon-to-be-graduating senior continues his recovery in Columbus after suffering serious head injures in the Feb. 1 accident near Taylorsville.

By selling hot dog meals on Wednesday and accepting donations at the auto dealership through Saturday, friends of the Speidel family hope to raise $20,000 this week.

They want to buy a larger vehicle that will accommodate the basketball player’s lanky 6-foot 7-inch frame for transportation as he continues his physical therapy.

Keith and Erica White, whose daughter Kiersten set up a gofundme online site just after the Feb. 1 accident to help the Speidel family with medical expenses, organized the food effort with the help of Chevrolet of Columbus President Leo Portaluppi.

Portaluppi donated the food and drinks that were being offered, along with donations from Sam’s Club and Kroger. Quick Signs provided the #JoshStrong whiteboard signs the players were waving along U.S. 31.

With the food being donated, all the money collected could go toward the car purchase, Erica White said.

The group raised more than $3,500 on Wednesday, and the dealership will continue accepting donations on the group’s behalf through Saturday.

Keirsten White said most of the money came in increments of $100 from people who simply wanted to contribute, and not necessarily for the food.

“It’s awesome,” she said.

Donations on the gofundme site are $76,610 so far, toward a goal of $100,000.

Portaluppi passed along a $100 check to the group from his parents, Jorge and Ana Portaluppi of Texas, who saw the effort to help Josh Speidel on Facebook.

“They’re on social media about Columbus all the time,” he said. “They know things before I do.”

Eva Cagwin of Columbus was just driving by after seeing the fundraiser promoted on Facebook and waved a $20 bill out the side window.

She didn’t want lunch but wanted to help, she said.

“I just hope they can achieve what they need to get the vehicle,” she said.

Nearly 40 volunteers, many of them North students and their friends, were working at the dealership to help raise the money.

In addition to Columbus North baseball players, members of the basketball team were volunteering in the afternoon, along with the North cheerleaders.

Through social media contacts, the group had invited more than 2,500 people to stop by and have a hot dog lunch.

The group had hoped Josh Speidel might be able to make an appearance, but that was not possible Wednesday, Erica White said.

That did not deter his friends from encouraging passing motorists to stop in, along with potential car buyers, to make a contribution.

Don and Sharon Jessee of Columbus, who are friends with Armstrong and are Chevrolet of Columbus customers, saw the Speidel event on social media and decided to drop in for lunch.

Don Jessee said he also wanted to see if his trade-in Jeep had been sold yet.

The couple have been following the Speidel story, although they don’t know the family personally, he said.

“It was a horrible accident. We just wish him the best — and maybe we can help raise a little money,” Jessee said.

Portaluppi said the dealership will work with the family to determine what vehicle best suits their son’s needs.

“We’re going to contribute to whatever vehicle they need,” he said. “This is about whatever they need.”

How to help

Chevrolet of Columbus is accepting donations to help the Josh Speidel family purchase a larger vehicle to help transport the Columbus North standout basketball player to therapy appointments as he recovers from a head injury. Donations are being accepted through Saturday at the dealership, 3560 N. National Road, Columbus.

For more information, visit the Josh Speidel gofundme site online at #joshstrong.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.