Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)
Birmingham— Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson surprised a crowd Wednesday by making his first public appearance using a walker since he was seriously injured in a car crash nearly a year and a half ago.
Patterson, 75, gingerly piloted his walker through a benefit luncheon crowd at the Townsend Hotel. The crowd at the annual fundraiser for CARE House of Oakland County included Gov. Rick Snyder and John Walsh, former host of “America’s Most Wanted.”
Patterson was nearly killed in the crash Aug. 10, 2012, at an intersection in Auburn Hills. His driver, James Cram, was left paralyzed.
“I’m a little stiff and still have pain in the knee and hip,” Patterson said. “But what I’m suffering from the most is a loss of equilibrium.”
Last year, Patterson used a wheelchair while attending the CARE House fundraiser for abused and neglected children.
At Wednesday’s event, Patterson addressed the recent fallout from a New Yorker magazine article, in which he was quoted saying disparaging things about the city of Detroit, its residents, and Native Americans in particular. In one quote from the article, Patterson referred to turning “Detroit into an Indian reservation.”
“I still feel betrayed and ambushed, because the article turned out to be about me instead of about Oakland County,” he said. “But I do plan to meet with the Indian leadership.” Patterson did not say when that meeting might take place.
Before leaving the luncheon, Patterson slowly walked down the hall outside the banquet room, tapping the floor with his walker as he gripped it in front of him with both hands.
Patterson said he still is undergoing physical therapy three days a week, and his therapists haven’t given him a date when he can stroll walker free. “But I’ve given them a date,” he said. “I want to walk on stage on Feb. 12 when I give my state of the county address, and I’m going to do it.”
Snyder was the special guest at the fundraiser.
“I’m proud to be here, and as a father of three, it’s easy to be passionate about this organization and what’s going to help children,” the governor said.
Since taking office in 2011, Snyder has established the Governor’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect in the Department of Human Services.
He also signed bills to increase the maximum penalty for first-degree child abuse to life in prison and 10 years for a first offense of second-degree child abuse.
“Child welfare added over 700 people to the workforce, and we more than doubled our budget from $200 million to over $400 million, to do right by our kids,” Snyder said.
“But our work is not done,” he said. “CARE House has been on the front line of delivering services to help these kids.”
Walsh, a long-time advocate for missing and abused children, was the guest speaker.
“While I was on ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ we recovered 60 missing children alive, and that’s what I’m most proud of,” he said. He ended his address by making a pitch for audience members to “open up your hearts.”
“Skip one pedicure, skip one guys’ night out and give that money to CARE House, because they could use it,” he said.