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Andolina continues to help Parete Leads fundraising as she recovers

Officer Carl Andolina took a gunshot wound to his neck as he tackled the teenager who emptied his gun into him and his partner, Officer Patricia Parete.

But friends say he believes he could have done more to help Parete.

While Andolina spent just a couple of days in Erie County Medical Center, Parete remains hospitalized five weeks after the shooting. Parete was shot through her chin, and the bullet pierced her spine. She now faces months and months of excruciating rehab.

Tuesday, Andolina spoke out for the first time -- to ask Buffalo to help him help his partner.

At a news conference at the Buffalo Police Department's Central District on Main Street, police and city officials announced plans for a gala fundraiser for Parete on March 31 in the Buffalo Convention Center.

"Patty Parete is more than a partner," Andolina read from a prepared statement as he choked back tears Tuesday morning. "She is a good friend . . . a great friend. She is a dynamic, caring, hardworking individual who has incredible passion and determination."

Andolina is continuing to help her. Now, he is serving as the chairman of the committee in charge of raising money for Parete.

"I am honored to chair this event that will help Patty with her recovery," Andolina said.

Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson are serving as honorary chairmen of the fundraising committee.

All of Parete's medical bills are being covered by the city.

"She'll get full benefits and salary and all her medical bills covered," said Thomas J. Burton, a former police officer and Buffalo attorney who became a quadriplegic in 1993, when he broke his neck in a motorcycle accident.

That means all of her surgeries in Erie County Medical Center, as well as her upcoming stay in Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J., where "Superman" actor Christopher Reeve was treated following his spinal cord injury.

However, Parete, her family and companion will need help in covering their travel costs to visit her in New Jersey during what is anticipated will be a months-long stay.

Parete will then need a home that is accessible to her; she and her companion had shared a second-floor apartment.

She will also require highly specialized and expensive rehabilitation equipment.

"The important thing is to try to add to a quality of life for Officer Parete as she rehabs," said Burton, speaking from his own experiences.

"Let's put it this way: There's not enough money on earth to balance out what happened to this officer," he said. "We're just trying to make a very tough situation a little better."

Parete's mother, Dot, who has been at her bedside every day since the shooting, told The Buffalo News that her daughter continues to show small signs of improvement.

A physical therapist recently pointed out that Parete has managed to retain her muscle tone and flexibility in her legs, her mother said. Her daughter also amazed her therapist when she managed to pull herself up a little, using the muscles between her neck and shoulders.

Best of all, her mother said, her daughter's sense of humor is returning.

"I spent a great day with her [Monday]," she told The Buffalo News after the news conference. "I brought her some pictures . . . and we had a good time looking at them and laughing."

Having been cooped up for weeks in the hospital, Parete is now eager to begin physical therapy in the Kessler Institute, her mother said.

"She's very anxious to go," she said.

Dot Parete continues to be amazed by the outpouring of love and support that Buffalo has shown her daughter and family.

"The way Buffalo and the police officers have been . . .," she said. "I'm overwhelmed. I'm not speechless, but almost."

The Buffalo Convention Center fundraiser is being organized by the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association. Tickets will be $25 a person. The event will be held from 7 p.m. until midnight Saturday, March 31.

In the meantime, another fundraiser is scheduled at 3 p.m. Sunday in Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St. A donation of $5 is suggested.

Donations can be sent to the Patricia A. Parete Fund, P.O. Box 682, Kenmore, NY 14217.

e-mail: mbecker@buffnews.com

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