BEACHWOOD — Ever since she was a little girl, Charissa Fromm has known her uncle Gerry LaCrosse was a special person. It wasn't until he was injured when a vehicle crashed into his beloved business that she realized other people knew what a great guy he is as well.

LaCrosse is the owner of the Wonder Wiener and was inside the building last Monday when an SUV crashed into it. The building suffered "extensive damages" and LaCrosse was airlifted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center where he remained in intensive care and on a ventilator until Sunday night, Fromm said.

Since being taken off the ventilator, LaCrosse has been taken out of ICU and is continuing what figures to be a slow recovery process. Fromm said he is able to communicate, and she believes he remembers what happened in the crash from his perspective, but may not know the full extent of what happened. As her uncle gets better she said she can't wait to tell him how people have rallied around him.

"I think everyone who meets him just feels a connection," she said. "I think that's why we're getting this response, just because of the kind of person he is. He's genuine. He just makes friends wherever he goes."

The driver of the SUV, Mark Poplawski, initially told police he fell asleep behind the wheel but then changed his story. While Poplawski has been issued moving violations for careless driving, driving in an unsafe manner, failure to exhibit documents and failure to maintain lane, he has not been charged with injuring LaCrosse.

In order to help LaCrosse's recovery, a GoFundMe has been established to raise money for his medical expenses and anything else they might need. Fromm said her aunt and uncle are "basically losing money every day" because the Wonder Wiener was their main source of income. While she said the family knows there are many people who want to see them rebuild, it is too early in the process to know if that will become a reality.

"That's the hope, but even if they do, I think it's going to be a while before he can work again," she said. "He lost his livelihood. It's a tough thing."

Since the page was established six days ago, nearly $10,000 out of a goal of $15,000 has been raised. A fundraiser is also scheduled to be held July 5 to 7 thanks to a combined effort by the PBA chapters representing officers in Berkeley, Beachwood and Pine Beach. Chris Shick, a delegate for the PBA, said the fundraiser was organized for LaCrosse, who he said was always a "big supporter of the police and the community."

The fundraiser will be held at the spot where LaCrosse has sold his beloved hot dogs since 1994.

"While we will never be able to duplicate his skills, we will certainly try our best to get close," a flyer for the fundraiser said.

Even though her uncle has a long way to go in his recovery process Fromm said even small signs of progress and the support from the community has meant the world to her family.

"I know I was really just hoping and praying he'd be OK for many reasons," she said. "He's just a very special person that means a lot to so many. So many want to see him get better and feel good again."

The outpour of support has been so enormous that Fromm said the family wants to make sure people know they are seeing the messages of support, and that even if they aren't able to respond to all of them they "couldn't be more thankful."

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