Community rallies in support of Harvard football player who suffered devastating injury

CAMBRIDGE (WHDH) - The Cambridge community and Harvard University students came together Tuesday to raise money for the family of a Crimson football player who was seriously injured in the team’s season-opening game.

Lines extended down the street as customers waited to get into the packed El Jefe’s Taqueria in Harvard Square, not just for the food, but to help a young man who was dealt a tough, life-changing blow.

“He was one of my classmates,” Kendall Bensche said. “I would feel so overjoyed if my classmates or people that didn’t even know me were doing this for me.”

Three months ago, in his first game on the Harvard football team, freshman defensive back Ben Abercrombie suffered a devastating neck injury after colliding with another player. As a result, Abercrombie can’t move his arms or legs, and has to use a ventilator to breathe.

On Tuesday, El Jefe’s owner John Schall, vowed to donate all of his proceeds and tips to Abercrombie and his family to assist with a growing list of medical costs.

Schall said he wanted to do it to help a member of the Harvard community, but that it’s also personal for him.

“My little brother, when he was 18, was a state champion miler and swimmer, and was in a car accident and paralyzed,” Schall said. “I’ve been dealing with this for 40 something years.”

Several of Abercrombie’s teammates were at the fundraiser. They said they were thrilled by the big turn out for Ben.

“It just shows how close-knit the Harvard community is, especially the athletic community,” teammate Tim O’Brien said. “They may not know Ben, but he’s our brother.”

As of 4:30 p.m., those at El Jefe’s had helped raise about $10,000 for Abercrombie, an Alabama native. The fundraiser continues until 4 a.m. Wednesday.

The Harvard Varsity Club has raised more than $200,000 for Abercrombie.

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