Updated: 10/06/2013 9:44 AM
Created: 10/05/2013 4:17 PM KSTP.com
By: Beth McDonough
It's a story of survival.
For the first time since a vicious beating last August, Ray Widstrand came out to a benefit in Maplewood Saturday.
At one point, doctors didn't think Ray Widstrand would survive his injuries. But he's proving you can overcome a huge setback.
That's why everyone came to the fundraiser, to see Ray Widstrand and surround him with support, "stay strong, keep fighting."
These days, Ray Widstrand depends on a wheelchair to get around and a helmet to protect his head from more trauma. Still Ray Widstrand has a smile that warms your heart, a story that breaks it, "it has been trying at times, but it's also been a learning experience for me."
One night in August, Ray Widstrand was simply walking to his St. Paul home when he got caught in the middle of chaos, when a group of gang members ambushed him. Authorities have charged five people with nearly beating him to death.
"We're hoping they'll answer for their actions and not us answering for them," says his father Peter Widstrand.
At first, Ray Widstrand couldn't remember why he looked the way he did, his family had to tell him. The attack was an act of cruelty, followed by so much kindness.
At the benefit, every hour brought more people. Whether a stranger or family friend, they felt compelled to come, "Angels are watching over him."
At the rehab facility where he's recovering, Ray Widstrand gets speech and physical therapy, "a ton of relief in how far he's come, although he still has struggles." And one more surgery to go.
At the benefit, Ray Widstrand is getting group therapy. The presence of all these people, proof that not all humans are inhumane.
Click here to see our interview with Ray Widstrand.