Fundraiser aims to help family of local fifth-grader

When a routine eye exam Nov. 3 led to the discovery of a golf-ball-sized tumor, the life of a local fifth-grader and his family was immediately and drastically turned upside down.

A student at Lord Baltimore Elementary School in Ocean View, Joseph Townsend was in surgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore within 24 hours after the exam, which had shown a swollen optic nerve, as well as the tumor.

Joseph, 10, remained in the hospital for nearly a month following the surgery, with his family traveling back and forth. Now back in school for half-days, Townsend is receiving occupational therapy in school and has physical therapy twice a week in Berlin, Md.

“Right now, he is working on his balance when walking, which was affected by the brain surgery itself. He also has some blurriness and double vision at times, which is also a result of the swollen optic nerve and surgery,” Michelle Townsend, Joseph’s mother, reported in a recent update on the family’s GoFundMe page.

Joseph’s dad, Ronnie Townsend, is a sergeant with the Ocean City (Md.) Police Department, having worked for the department for 25 years. It was his service to the police department that led members of the community to come together in an effort to show appreciation and support for Townsend and his family.

“About a month ago, we had a Thanksgiving party, and a mutual friend was telling us the story,” said Jennifer Lauman, general manager of the Hooter’s restaurant in West Ocean City. “Obviously, it touched all of our hearts,” she said.

That friend was a fellow officer on the OCPD. Very quickly after that, Lauman reached out to Joseph’s mom on Facebook, and she said she has been in frequent contact ever since. In addition to setting up a GoFundMe page to help the family with expenses related to Joseph’s treatment, Lauman and her employer, Hooter’s, are planning a holiday party for Thursday, Dec. 22, to benefit the family.

Jason Ortt, another general manager at Hooter’s, said he has known Ronnie Townsend for 20 years through Townsend’s work.

“He’s a very nice guy,” Ortt said.

The party for the Townsends “just came together” over the next few weeks. As plans have solidified, the fundraiser has grown to the point where “I keep saying we’re going to need a bigger building,” Lauman said.

For a $20 donation, Hooter’s is offering a buffet dinner, complete with domestic draft beer for the adults, as well as games and crafts for children and an appearance by Santa. D.J. Wax is donating his services for the event, which will also feature guest bartenders from a number of area restaurants. A silent auction and 50/50 drawing will also be held during the evening.

Lauman and Ortt said they have been blown away by the support from the community for the event and for the Townsend family themselves.

“I just can’t imagine how hard it is,” Lauman said.

Michelle Townsend reported on the GoFundMe page that Joseph’s doctors and therapists feel his prognosis is good and that the side-effects from the surgery will lessen over time. Meanwhile, she said, “We know we have a long, fighting road ahead of us.”

For more information on the party for the Townsend family, call Jennifer Lauman or Jason Ortt at Hooter’s in West Ocean City at (410) 213-1841. The restaurant is located at 12513 Ocean Gateway, Ocean City. The family’s GoFundMe page is located at