Rescuing a Samaritan

Less than two weeks after getting shot, Matt Casias sits in the northwest Denver dining room of a friend looking chipper and happy. He moves a little stiffly and occasionally gets sharp pains from the bullet lodged below his right shoulder blade, but otherwise you'd never know he'd just spent several nights in critical condition at Denver Health Medical Center.

On Thursday, October 28, Casias was working in his shop at 767 Santa Fe Drive when he saw three men trying to accost a woman on the street. He ran out to help her, but when he got there, one of Brynda Turner's assailants shot him. He was rushed to the hospital, where, for a while, it was uncertain whether he'd pull through. The 26-year-old single father did, and by that Saturday, he was back home with his family, recovering.

What's not recovering is his bank account. Casias is without health insurance, and his medical bills are mounting. Others are lending a hand. On First Friday in November, Artdistrict on Santa Fe held a fundraiser for Casias, with dozens of local artists donating works to a silent auction. This Friday, Mayor John Hickenlooper, Chief of Police Gerry Whitman and Turner will host Matt Casias -- A Hero's Welcome to benefit the good Samaritan.

"Matt Casias's selflessness and heroism has touched people throughout the community," says Hickenlooper. "This event is a way for the community to come together to thank, honor and support Matt during his ongoing recovery."

The by-donation evening will also serve as a first look at the new Colorado Convention Center for many Denver residents. Jack Finlaw, director of Theatres and Arenas, donated the CCC's soaring West-facing lobby and outdoor balcony to the cause, giving a sneak peek at the space, which isn't scheduled to officially open until December 6.

Starting at 5:30 p.m., a string of local individuals and organizations will present with Casias awards for his heroism, including Hickenlooper, Whitman, the Daniels Fund, the Guardian Angels, Reverend Leon Kelly, NEWSED and the Santa Fe Drive Redevelopment Corp. After the formalities, guests can bid on a variety of silent-auction items, including a condo in Vail for the weekend, access to a private lake with water-skiing lessons, and a dinner-and-suite package at the Luna Hotel. Finally, the old-school Chicano band Next in Line will keep the party going until the midnight hour.

"I just can't believe it," Casias says as he looks at the friends gathered around him. "I just can't believe how everyone's come out to support me. It's just so amazing."

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Amy Haimerl

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