Willie T. Jones has given much to the community over the last 30 years.
Now the community is returning the favor.
Mr. Jones, who owns Willie’s Tropical Tattoo in Ormond Beach, suffered serious injuries in an April 10 crash as he was riding with friends to a special event at the Boot Hill Saloon.
His wife, Gloria Perry, said a drunk driver slammed into his motorcycle. Mr. Jones, whose twice-annual Willie’s Chopper Time Old School Bike Show has raised thousands of dollars for a pair of local charities, suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung among other injuries. He underwent surgery to remove blood clots and his left lung’s lower lobe was removed.
He was hospitalized for three weeks, including a week in ICU, Ms. Perry said.
“He’s doing better than he was in the hospital,” Ms. Perry said May 6, a day after Mr. Jones returned home. “He’s still pretty weak. He can’t walk very good because he has vasculitis now from an infection he got in the hospital.”
With Mr. Jones’ medical bills piling up, longtime friend Kari Juengel started a GoFundMe page, titled “Tropical Willie Needs Us Now,” to help with the couple’s expenses.
As of Sunday, 168 people donated a total of $26,350 to help alleviate the couple’s expenses. The contributions ranged from $5 to $10,000.
Ms. Juengel’s goal is to raise $100,000.
“He’s had quite a few setbacks. He’s still fighting, though,” said Ms. Juengel, who has helped Mr. Jones run the Chopper Time bike show, a popular Bike Week and Biketoberfest event.
Mr. Jones and Ms. Perry have operated Willie’s Tropical Tattoo at 825 S. Yonge St. for 31 years. The Chopper Time show raises money for the Daytona Beach-based Veterans Support Fund, which aids local disabled veterans. The event initially raised funds for the ARNI Foundation, a no-kill animal shelter before it moved its operation to Colorado in 2017.
“While this show is perceived as wildly successful, its purpose is to gather community and do charitable work,” Ms. Juengel wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Russell Niedwick, on behalf of his wife, ARNI Foundation founder Nikki Linn, and their daughter, Vail, made the largest donation of $10,000 to the fund and added a comment: “Willie you are a legend! Thank you for all you do for ARNI and the Veterans Support Fund! Heal up brother! Love Rusty, Nikki, Vail, and all the animals you helped save and the veterans you have helped.”
“What an amazing man he is,” Ms. Juengel, who lives in Michigan, said in a phone interview last week. “And all that he does for the community around Daytona. He’ll donate to anything he can. A lot of the people who have made donations are people who have attended his shows, a lot of them are tattoo artists, who he has mentored.”
Ms. Juengel said Mr. Jones has helped “hundreds of young builders and motorcycle businesses” expose their products at his Chopper Time shows.
“I’ve known Willie for over 15 years now,” she said. “For 10 years I would help him put the show on with registration, sponsorships, donations, raffles, vendors. I call him Poppy. He’s like a grandpa to me.”
Ms. Perry, who has been married to Mr. Jones for 42 years, said she and her husband are gratified by the community support.
“You’re just so surprised by the number of people who come to your aid when you are in need,” she said.
While he still has a long road ahead in his recovery, Mr. Jones’ family and friends hope he’ll be back greeting visitors and vendors at the next Chopper Time in October.
“We hope he’ll be well enough by then to be able to do it,” Ms. Perry said.
To make a donation, visit gofundme.com/f/tropical-willie-needs-us-now.