JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An evening of laughter and a celebration of life grew out of an attack that left a single mother of two paralyzed from the waist down.
Hundreds of people came together Saturday night at the Fraternal Order of Police in Jacksonville to help Iesha Mann, a Jacksonville Beach woman whose life was turned upside down one night while walking her dog.
For the first time, Channel 4 saw Mann outside of the hospital. It's now been more than three months after she was caught in the crossfire of a shooting.
Strangers who heard Mann's story organized the benefit in an effort to raise money to help pay her medical bills.
Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham, Police Commander Patrick Dooley, and Ron Davis, who's son was killed at a gas station in November for playing his music too loud, were just some of the attendees. Even if people couldn't stay, many stopped by just to drop off a check.
"It feels good," said Mann. "It feels good to laugh and to be around my family and friends and people who you know care for me."
The event was organized by three strangers inspired by her story and spirit.
"We didn't know her. We saw the story on Channel 4 news and we talked about it at work one day," said Tiwuana Robinson.
The trio said they threw around the idea of a gift card. Then they tracked Mann down at the hospital and realized they can do bigger and better. That's when they decided to put on this fundraiser.
"Just wanted to give, give back. Pay it forward, that's what you do. I mean, we don't have much. We have our own families, but we just wanted to do something," said Robinson.
Mann is still in a lot of pain and bound to a wheelchair. She was walking her mom's dog in Jacksonville Beach in October when she got caught in the crossfire of a shooting. A stray bullet hit her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. The bullet is still lodged inside her.
Mann said she is grateful for the fundraiser, but as she's made clear all along, the survivor said she doesn't want anyone feeling sorry for her.
"I'm okay. I'm happy I'm here. I'm alive. I get to see my kids grow up to be young men," said Mann.
Mann said she's determined to walk again.
"I'm going to walk again. I'm going to walk again. Your next interview with me is going to be, ‘Iesha's walking again,' - watch!"
Instead of just a gift card, the three strangers, or guardian angels as Mann calls them, raised about $3,500 to help with her medical bills.
If you'd like to contribute, you can go to Bank of America, where there's an account set up in Iesha Mann's name.