Seconds after escaping from his burning Warrenville house last month, William Lowe ran right back in, thinking a friend was still inside and wanting to do everything he could to help.
No one else was inside the home, and Lowe, 33, suffered the worst injuries from the Sept. 15 fire, ending up at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood with third- and fourth-degree burns over half his body.
If you goIf you go
What: Fundraiser for William Lowe's medical expenses
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20
Where: Ray's Evergreen Tavern, 1400 W. Main St. in St. Charles
Who: Sponsored by the Lowe family
Cost: $10 admission for adults, $5 for kids 12 or younger
The friends and family Lowe would do anything to help now are planning a fundraiser to assist with the mounting medical bills of eight surgeries and more than a month in the hospital, his cousin, Jackie Lowe, said.
Anyone who wants to contribute to William Lowe's medical fund is invited to a fundraiser at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at Ray's Evergreen Tavern, 1400 W. Main. St. in St. Charles. An admission price of $10 or $5 for kids 12 and younger will be donated directly to the fund, along with proceeds from several raffles.
Friends, neighbors and strangers already have donated more than $12,000 to the fund for Lowe, who does not have medical insurance. Family members say they are grateful for the support.
"As we're doing our best to be there for Will, we have this huge community and family behind us, which is just amazing," his cousin said. "Every day it's something new."
Medically, Lowe remains in critical but stable condition in a medically induced coma. He's fighting pneumonia and a blood infection, which family hopes he can overcome after his latest surgery Oct. 9 -- amputation of both his legs below the knee.
"They watched his legs closely and then realized they weren't healing," Jackie Lowe said. "We're hoping the surgery helps his body start fighting off infection."
Only immediate family members have been able to visit Lowe so far. But the Lowe family is a large group, with William's parents living in Warrenville and four of his five sisters in the Chicago area, able to provide support just by being there.
"I really think that is what has pulled him through this so far," said William's sister, Peggi Vivian. "People who had never even met William are offering prayers and support. It's incredible."
The family also is grateful for the help of neighbors Lionel Martinez and Mike Logan, who saw Lowe hanging out a first-floor window with his clothes on fire during the height of the 5 a.m. blaze. The men pulled Lowe out of the house and got him a safe distance away before the structure collapsed. The Warrenville City Council recognized Martinez and Logan for their heroic actions.
"We've kept them constantly updated," Jackie Lowe said. "We absolutely consider them part of the family."
At the time of the fire, Lowe was living at the corner of Forestview and Curtis avenues in Warrenville with a friend who rented the house. He loved art and music and was always doing odd jobs and remodeling projects. He also played on a few softball teams and was known to sport a long beard, which some of his softball teammates will be doing until he is released from the hospital, Lowe's cousin said.
"He's on a bunch of different softball teams, which has been pretty cool to see them come together," Lowe said. "What we've realized through all this is he has a million groups of friends."
The cause of the fire, which completely destroyed the two-story home, remains unknown, Warrenville authorities said.
A bus will be available to shuttle fundraiser attendees from Bower Elementary School in Warrenville to Ray's Evergreen Tavern in St. Charles. Donations to Lowe's medical fund also can be made through william-lowe.com.