Local residents are banding together to organize a fundraiser for a Dunwoody elementary school custodian who was left paralyzed after contracting COVID-19.

Victor Shumate, the custodian at Vanderlyn Elementary School in Dunwoody, tested positive for COVID-19 around Thanksgiving last year, according to a Facebook post. He recovered, but on Feb. 3 was hospitalized because he was losing the ability to walk. According to the post, doctors diagnosed Shumate with “COVID induced myelopathy,” a nervous system disorder. Shumate has remained in the hospital for three months and has also lost the ability to use his arms and hands.

Victor Shumate, a custodian at Vanderlyn Elementary School, suffered paralysis after contracting COVID-19.

In response, family and friends are organizing an event they call “The VIC-Tory Walk.” From May 16-23, participants are asked to walk, run or jog in support of Shumate and his family. According to organizer Rita Jones, Shumate’s sister-in-law, there are no set rules, but everyone is asked to track their steps and miles, and can post their progress in the event Facebook page, or email to itsafamilyaffair2021@gmail.com

Renee Shumate, Victor Shumate’s wife, said in an emailed statement she was thankful for the outpouring of support. She said Shumate is currently at the Shepherd Center, a Buckhead rehabilitation hospital that focuses on spinal cord injuries and other neuromuscular issues. She also thanked doctors at Emory, who she said worked with the Mayo Clinic – a nonprofit academic medical center – to understand her husband’s situation and figure out how best to treat him. 

“We would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support for Victor. The contributions from the Vanderlyn and Dunwoody communities, along with those of coworkers and friends, have really humbled us,” she said in an email. “While he has a long road ahead filled with uncertainty regarding his ability to walk again, Victor maintains, ‘He’s listening to God.’ The sacrifice everyone is making on his behalf is strengthening his resolve. We would like to again humbly thank everyone involved.”

For those who would like to make a donation for Shumate and his family, ways to do so can be found here. 

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.