BOISE, Idaho — When it comes to the ECHL Mountain Division standings, the Idaho Steelheads are riding high, but right now, the team and the Boise hockey community also are missing a beloved part of the family: Paul Homola.
The longtime Zamboni driver suffered a massive stroke on Christmas Eve. It has left him with very limited mobility and very limited ability to speak, and it will be a long time before he can return to the job he's done for 20 years.
"The only income for his family is his work at the rink," said Rocci Johnson with the Idaho Steelheads Booster Club. "We felt we had to figure out a way to make sure that not just income but medical needs are taken care of, and any other concerns the family might have... The most important thing here is for Paul to get better, and for him to be able to come back and be a part of the family at Idaho Steelheads again."
Johnson and Rob McSweeney have set up an online fundraiser for Homola and his family. The goal was set at $5,000. As of Thursday, Jan. 26, it has raised more than $27,000 -- above and beyond, just the way Homola works on and off the ice.
Johnson recalled seeing Homola during early-morning live shots with late KTVB meteorologist Larry Gebert.
"I would meet (Larry) down at the rink at 5 in the morning, and Paul would be there on the ice in the background running the Zamboni, getting it prepared for events of the day, such as youth hockey or practice for Boise State men's hockey or one of the adult leagues," Johnson said. "And then that night, when we had that charitable event happening at the rink, there (Paul) still is working 14-15 hours later."
In an update on the GoFundMe page for Homola, Johnson wrote Saturday, Jan. 21, that Homola "is getting much better; going to speech and writing therapy."
"Although he tires easily, he is pushing forward, going for walks with Radka and taking trips to the grocery stores, etc., so he is exposed to different environments to keep his brain stimulated and healing."
Johnson also wrote that Homola is currently able to speak only Czech, his native language, even though he has spoken English for almost three decades.
"For all of us who know and love Paul and his diligent dedication to perfection, that must be a little frustrating," Johnson wrote. "The important thing is that because of your donations, Paul and Radka are able to concentrate on his recovery and healing, and they both want to express their deepest gratitude for your care, concern and generous support. On behalf of the Idaho Steelheads Boosters and Family, we also want to express our profound appreciation for your love and generosity in support of this wonderful, loving man and his family. You all give us hope. "
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