CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ)– 22-year-old Curwensville native Shelby R. Rowles started micro sprint racing around five years ago.
“He likes working, he loves racing and likes pulling his trucks,” his father Shelby Rowles said. “That’s his pastime. It’s what we live for.”
But on July 13 at Path Valley Speedway in Spring Run, Pa., his life changed in a matter of seconds.
“He wasn’t racing yet, he went to start the car and he had a fuel leak,” Rowles said. “When my dad turned around, he saw electrical sparking in the car and he told Shelby to get out and as soon as that happened, it lit.”
Shelby was airlifted to John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Maryland for severe burns to his face and hands.
While in the hospital, a friend created a logo based on a special meaning.
At first, Shelby wasn’t verbal, so he found a way to communicate with his hands.
One day, his family couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say.
“He kept moving his arm and moving his fist,” Rowles said. “What it came down to, all he wanted was a fist bump from me. Something so simple.”
So they rolled with it and started using #fistbump as a way for family, friends and strangers to show support.
Soon it spread from online, into local businesses.
Ginger’s Family Restaurant in Coalport was one of the first to start a fundraiser.
“We are doing cakes for a cause, which is one dollar per every piece of dessert sold goes toward Shelby,” restaurant manager and baker Mandee Hollis said.
Ginger’s is place the Rowles family frequents quite often.
“Shelby, his dad, his grandfather come in here sometimes two, maybe three times a day,” Hollis said. “So this is just something we can do to help them stay on their feet during this hard time.”
In just a few days, they’ve raised hundreds of dollars between the desserts and donations.
“Everything has been selling so fast,” Hollis said. “The girls are wiping out whole cheesecakes in a couple of hours every day.”
They’ll continue the donations until August 18.
Even business owners who have never met Shelby are offering to help.
Owner of The Country Butcher in Woodland Jason Gill decided a dollar from every sale this week will go to the Rowles family.
“I know what it’s like for a tragedy to happen in the family,” Gill said. “When it happened to our family, I know one the best things anybody could do was give money because the family has to travel, there’s travel expenses, there’s meal expenses, lodging expenses.”
The Country Butcher will wrap up their fundraiser on Saturday, July 27 with a hot dog cookout.
With all the support pouring in, the family wishes there was a better way to thank the community.
“Thank you doesn’t seem like enough,” Rowles said. “We are thankful, we are grateful, we appreciate all the support and financial efforts and everything that everyone is doing.”
Rowles said he believes Shelby is on track for a speedy recovery because of every donation, prayer– and of course, fist bump.
Multiple other area businesses, people and speedways have also collected and donated money to the cause.
If you would like to support the family, a Go Fund Me is set up here, or you can make a donation to:
Shelby R. Rowles
1231 South 2nd St.
Clearfield, PA 16830
Correction: Racing video clip provided by Wesley Condon