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'Zumba for Zach' to Raise Money for Area Grad Hurt in Car Crash

Emmaus High School Spanish teacher Claudia Risi has organized a zumba fundraiser to help the family of an Emmaus High School graduate badly hurt in a car accident to pay for his mounting medical bills.

Zach Miller, Emmaus High School Class of 2006
Zach Miller, Emmaus High School Class of 2006
NOTE: Zach Miller, a 2006 Emmaus High graduate, has been in a coma resulting from an August 2011 car crash in the Pittsburgh area. A fundraising event -- Zumba for Zach -- will be held at Emmaus High Saturday from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Doors open at 1 p.m.

By Jack Tobias

Zach Miller, a 2006 Emmaus High grad, was in the prime of his young life.

He had graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was president of his fraternity. He had become a fitness buff and had joined the company that runs CrossFit exercising. He even earned a gold medal in a contest testing physical prowess.

He was something of a celebrity in the Iron City, plying his bartending skills at the wedding of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. And Zach himself was engaged to be married.

But in August 2011, on Interstate 79, a car crash changed everything.

"It all blew up when he went through the windshield," Zach's father, Jack Miller, said in a conversation with Patch.com.

Zach has been in a coma since the crash and needs 24-hour care in a hospital. His mother, Susan, moved out to Pittsburgh and is with her son every day, seven to eight hours a day. The financial costs of his care are astronomical. His surgery alone cost $865,000, his father said.

Back home, meanwhile, Zach is still fondly remembered, and many folks want to reach out and help.

A fundraising event called "Zumba for Zach" is set for Saturday (12/7) at Emmaus High School. The event, to be held from noon to 3 p.m., was the idea of Emmaus High Spanish teacher Claudia Risi.

"His father reached out to the East Penn community for help with Zach's medical bills in September," Risi said. "Since I taught Zach, I wanted to help."

As a news release for Saturday's event puts it: "As a recent college graduate at the time of his accident, he had no health insurance. His mounting medical bills for treatment have necessitated that his family reach out to the Emmaus High School community for help."

Did making the fundraiser a Zumba event have anything to do with Zach's passion for fitness?

"Yes, Zach is a huge fitness enthusiast and Zumba fundraisers have become very popular and don't require prior training or skills," Risi told Patch. "Everyone can have fun and maybe it will turn someone on to fitness at the same time."

From Pittsburgh, Susan Miller -- who said she embraces a "never-give-up attitude" about her son - relayed some encouragement for those who will be or are thinking about "zumba-ing" for Zach.

"It's not over," she said of Zach. "He just hasn't woken up. It's been two years and people think he's a goner. But it's not over. He's worth not forgeting.

"He's in there," Miller continued. "He just can't figure how to get out. Once he wakes up, the amount of time and money to get him on his feet is mind-blowing. ... Eventually we would like to bring him home. But it would involve building a wing on a house. The needs are mind-blowing."

Miller says Zach's condition has improved "leaps and bounds" during his hospital stay. She relates what her son's neurologist said of his patient's condition: "It's like watching grass grow; you can't see it happening, but it is."

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