By now most local residents have heard the name Jason Statts and know well the story of the beloved local musician paralyzed in his prime.
In June of 2008, Statts and fellow bandmate David Williams were shot during a botched robbery while unloading band equipment in the normally affable Ardsley Park neighborhood. Williams lost a vocal cord and was temporarily unable to speak while Statts was left permanently paralyzed, his spinal cord “melted” by the heat and pressure of the passing bullet which now resides in Williams’ shoulder.
However, this isn’t the story of a shooting, this is the story of a group of friends who created a grassroots fundraising campaign celebrating a decade of continued benevolence. This is the story of Friends of Statts.
A few months after the shooting, Friends of Statts, the nonprofit organization created to support its namesake, threw the first Statts Fest at local institution The Jinx, and the benefit has continued to grow every year since.
Unlike most charity organizations, Friends of Statts donates every dollar raised directly to Statts himself to combat the mounting medical bills that will follow him throughout his life.
This Friday, Savannah’s Southbound Brewing Co. will be hosting a party to benefit Friends of Statts that will feature the release of a special Black IPA brewed by Daniel Weiner and Southbound Lead Brewer Jeremy Hammons.
The party will feature an auction and 50/50 raffle as well as live music by Bottles & Cans and The Train Wrecks. Entry fee is a $10 suggested donation at the door.
When asked about where the idea for a Southbound Beer Release party came from, Statts unveils another act of grace and kindness.
“Southbound has donated to past silent auctions,” Statts said. “That’s how the beer party came about. The winner of the auction chose to further support Friends of Statts through the brewing of a special IPA and invited the public to a taste-test shindig. It’s a selfless act, and I’m extremely grateful. I’m constantly amazed and humbled by the generosity of my friends in Savannah and abroad.”
Besides aiding in the fight against Statts medical bills, Friends of Statts also focuses on spreading awareness about spinal injuries.
When asked what the most important thing people with no exposure to these types of injuries should know about them, Statts said, “Each and every one is unique. The extent of the injury corresponds to whatever vertebrae has sustained the injury. The higher the injury occurs, the less one can feel, or move. In my case, no bones were broken. The damage was done to my actual spinal cord.
“The pressure and heat from the bullet melted about two inches of my spinal cord,” Stats continued. “That corresponds to me being paralyzed from my chest down. Whereas, damage to a thoracic vertebra, much lower on the spinal column, could mean that I would have use of my upper body. Each case is extremely unique to the individual.”
Through the years, Statts has expressed deep gratitude for the work of Friends of Statts. Since he is not part of the planning aspect of the events, Statts prefers to be surprised by them.
“I’m not sure what there will be this year. I say that only because I’m usually the last to know,” Statts said. “It’s what I prefer. I’ve never asked for and will never ask for Statts Fest to happen. The simple fact is that I have amazing friends. They are the ones who make it happen. I owe them so much. All I can do is tell them how much I appreciate the support, and I do, but I feel that saying thanks isn’t enough. I can’t even put into words the admiration and love I have for each and every one of them."