How to make eating tacos a way to help a Knoxville boy

How to make eating tacos a way to help a Knoxville boy

By Mary Constantine, Knoxville News Sentinel – March 20, 2017

Babalu Knoxville, 412 S. Gay St., will host a pop-up taco shop fundraiser from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday, March 22.

Called “Ethan’s Taco Shop,” the event is named for Ethan Woodruff, a 10-year-old Dogwood Elementary School student who suffered a traumatic brain injury about four years ago in a car accident in which his father Ben was killed. The crash was caused when a man driving under the influence of drugs crashed into the car in which Ethan, his sister and father were sitting waiting to turn into their subdivision. His sister, now 8, was strapped into a five-point harness and survived the accident with no injuries.

“Ethan suffered a traumatic brain injury, which means that his head hit hard enough that part of his brain has gone dark,” said his mother, Beth Woodruff.

Therapy has helped Ethan to “remap” some of the skills lost due to his frontal lobe damage, but his mother said therapy will be “a consistent part of our life for at least the next 10 years.”

“During the first year, he had some spontaneous recovery, and as long as he continues therapy everything after the first year is stuff he really has to work hard for. He is still making incredible gains,” she said.

After the first year of treatment, Ethan could not sit in his wheelchair without having his head supported. Through therapy Ethan is now able to sit comfortably in the wheelchair, which he is able to propel himself. His mother said his speech has improved — albeit at a slower speed than one might consider normal — and that he is reading close to grade level. She credits the “phenomenal” team at Dogwood Elementary for the part they have played in his recovery.

Woodruff said she didn’t know anything about the taco shop idea until she received a phone call from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, where Ethan has his therapy.

“My understanding is that Babalu reached out to the hospital and asked if any of their patients needed monetary help. One of the social workers thought of Ethan, and she called us,” she said.

“We (Babalu) have given to charities since November 2015, but the taco shop is something new that the company is going to do. Knoxville will be the fourth location to hold a fundraiser this year, and it will become an annual event,” general manager Dee Hust said.

Ethan was invited to the restaurant where Hust showed him how to make a tortilla and how to prepare guacamole. Ethan also sampled a variety of tacos as inspiration for his own creation. He decided to create a dessert taco.

It’s a deep-fried dessert made with a fried flour tortilla topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce, strawberries, peanuts and mint.

“The toppings are optional with the strawberries and mint meant to look like lettuce and tomato,” Hust said.

Cost for the dessert is $3 with $1 being donated to Ethan’s cause. In addition, $1 will be donated for every taco sold at Babalu’s on Wednesday, March 22. Hours of operation are 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Woodruff said the extra funds will be very helpful.

“It’s amazing that they selected us. We have decided that part of the money will go toward our existing therapy bill and another part of it will help to send Ethan to a great camp in Nashville affiliated with YMCA and Easter Seals where they will give him his own private counselor. He went last year and had the most fun. It’s just a bunch of kids that get to go swimming, boating, fishing and zip lining using an adaptive harness. We are hoping he will get to do that more than once this summer as it allows him to have such a fun summer,” she said.

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