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More than 200 attend fundraiser for local family

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The Polson Elks Lodge was packed wall to wall on Thursday night. People from all corners of the community came to the lodge for a fundraiser to support Carlos Rodriques, a Polson resident who has been hospitalized since early March. Attendees visited at tables, eating hamburgers and brownies. One wall of the large room was lined with a collection of 85 donated silent auction items that ranged from handmade jewelry to power tools. The duo Barton and Caselli played music on the stage.

David Caselli, owner of Caselli Therapeutic Massage in Polson, organized the fundraiser. He knew Rodriques as a student at his Pilates studio. Caselli said that Rodriques is a well-known member of the community. He teaches Taekwondo and participates in Pilates and swimming. Rodriques also trains birds of prey to hunt, and does demonstrations with his birds at community events. Rodriques’s wife, Uli, is a veterinarian at Southshore Veterinary Service in Polson.  

“They’re very loved,” Caselli said.

According to Caselli, Rodriques became ill in early March. The illness, which doctors believe is an autoimmune condition, has caused him to become paralyzed from the neck down. Caselli said that Rodriques has also suffered from pneumonia and cardiac arrest, which have been setbacks to his recovery. Rodriques has been hospitalized in Kalispell and Spokane since he became ill. Caselli said that the doctors are hopeful that he will recover, but that it will be a long time before things are back to normal for Rodriques and his family.

Caselli said that he and others at the Pilates studio felt helpless when it came to supporting their friend’s recovery, so he suggested that they put together a fundraiser. Proceeds from the event will fund travel expenses and offset the loss of income for Rodriques’s family. 

Local businesses donated the items for the silent auction and some food for the dinner. To enter the event, each attendee made a $30 donation to the cause.

Janet Caselli, David’s wife, helped organize the fundraiser. Just over an hour into the event she said that the Elks Lodge had already served the 175 meals that she had requested for the event. More than 40 people stood in line, waiting to be served, as the cooks pulled more food out of the freezer. People were still trickling into the building. 

Janet was pleased with the event’s turnout. “Before this started I thought, ‘I hope someone’s going to come,’” she said.

According to David, before the fundraiser started, the community had raised more than $11,000 between a GoFundMe and donations that the organizers of the event had collected. 

“This shows what you can do when a community like this comes together,” he said.

Those who wish to donate to the Rodriques family can do so online, through the GoFundMe and CaringBridge websites. 

Notes of encouragement are also welcome.

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