Community to throw fundraiser for hit-and-run victim

Wade Souster, 31, of St. Paul, is shown in recovery with his cousin, Angie Hammerlindl. (submitted photo)

Wade Souster has been in full time medical care for two months. (submitted photo)

In hopes of helping out Souster with his medical costs, and perhaps with his spirit, East Siders have organized a fundraiser with live music by The Journey Experience.

Wade Souster on slow road to recovery

Wade Souster has been making a slow recovery since a vehicle struck him in a hit-and-run collision near Lake Phalen.

The 31-year-old was walking when he was hit in the early hours of Oct. 3 and found by another driver around 4 a.m., lying in the median of Phalen Boulevard, near the intersection of Atlantic Street.

Emergency personnel were called to the scene, and he was brought to Regions Hospital.

He sustained a severe brain injury -- his brain was swollen and under a lot of pressure. He also suffered pelvic and facial fractures, and bruising of the lungs. He began his hospital stay in a coma and on a mechanical ventilator.

But things have improved.

Angie Hammerlindl, Souster’s cousin and the family spokesperson, reports that Wade is “doing really good.”

He’s been in three different medical care facilities -- after Regions, he transferred to Bethesda Hospital and has seen marked improvements, including improved cognitive skills and healing wounds.

Community steps in

In hopes of helping out Souster with his medical costs, and perhaps with his spirit, East Siders have organized a fundraiser with live music by The Journey Experience. Neighbors, family, complete strangers and the business community all teamed up to organize the event.

The band features Kevin Chalfant, who sometimes stood in for the rock band Journey’s lead singer Steve Perry.

The event will take place Monday, Dec. 16, from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Prom Center in Oakdale, where Souster’s mother, Sandy Romero, works. Because of this connection, the space is being donated for the event.

The benefit will also feature silent and live auctions, a kids area and refreshments.

Steve Hyland, president of the East Side Area Business Association, who helped pull the event together, said that for a cause like Souster’s, it was easy to rally around.

“(It’s) the ultimate motivator -- a nice young guy who was a victim of a hit-and-run.”

It doesn’t hurt that Hyland was acquainted with Souster. The two had met at Souster’s job at the Downtowner Car Wash, a business Hyland had been working with.

Souster is “absolutely one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” he said.

Hyland said the goal is to get 500 people to the event and raise $10,000 for Souster, to help pay for some of his medical costs.

Bills piling up

In terms of Souster’s insurance and his medical bills, things are a bit of a mess, Hammerlindl said.

“Insurance can only cover so much compared to what his bills are,” she said. The family is hoping the fundraiser might cover ambulance bills and a chunk of his stay at Regions Hospital -- but the costs go much beyond that. He’s been in the hospital for two months and away from his job as a manager at the car wash.

Despite improvements he’s seen, Souster has a long ways to go, Hammerlindl reports, which is a source of frustration for Souster.

“He really wants to be out of (medical facilities),” she said. “He’s ready to get back to doing stuff.”

Adding to the frustration is the lack of a suspect — tips have basically stopped coming in to find the driver who struck him, Hammerlindl said. Police had called for tips about any dark colored vehicles with front end damage.

“(Wade) doesn’t have anywhere to put the blame,” she said.

Souster is itching to walk, but will have to wait a couple of weeks. And he isn’t physically strong enough to attend the benefit in person.

The family and the event’s organizers are working on a way for him to appear via videoconferencing, both to say hello to his supporters and to check out the event.

Hammerlindl said Souster is still sorting through a lot of the brain trauma caused from the accident.

While he can hold a conversation, “some of what he says is kind of off the wall,” she said, and it’s unclear. “That’s where you can see that the long-term effects of this are going to come in.”

At least for the time being, “Wade isn’t Wade anymore.”

Lighter side

Wade Souster now understands what happened to him, although he doesn’t remember the accident.

He does, however, recall that he was on a first date that evening. And he’s feeling happy, because the girl has since agreed to go out with him again once he’s able.

And Hammerlindl reports that Souster’s personality has shown itself at times. The most obvious example, she said, was his insistence in participating in “no shave November.”

The man simply refused to lose his beard.

“It was the most Wade-like argument I’ve seen” since the hit-and-run incident, she said. “It’s nice to actually have that part of him back.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

Monday, Dec. 16, from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Prom Center in Oakdale

Tickets to the benefit:  $20, or $39 for VIP seating near the stage.

Tickets can be bought online at or by mail by sending a check payable to Wade Souster Benefit to 1043 Grand Ave. 333, St. Paul.


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