Johansen High overcrossing in Modesto sends message for injured teen

naustin@modbee.comDecember 31, 2013 

— Friends of Johansen High School senior Robert Penton tied a red-ribbon tribute to the Claus Road overcrossing near the school. The sign affixed to the chain-link fence reads “#Pray4RobbieP.”

Penton, 17, is opening his eyes and breathing on his own, small signs of progress as he recovers at a Vacaville medical facility after a Dec. 7 auto accident in Turlock. His mother, Jodi McClure, reports he is waking periodically and staring at pictures sent by friends and family hung at his bedside.

Family friends put up the Claus Road display Monday night. Organizer Alicia Acosta said they used plastic strips ripped from a tablecloth – red because it’s Penton’s favorite color.

“I grew up with Robert. He’s like my little brother,” Acosta said Tuesday. “We thought about it because we’d seen people asked to prom and winter formal by posting things up there, and we wanted to do that for Robbie,” she said.

Reached by email, McClure spoke Tuesday of how “overwhelmed we are at the continued support from friends and the community and beyond.”

McClure’s daily stream of emails, updating family and friends, includes a mix of encouraging signs and fresh worries. She wrote hopefully of his clenching fists and shaky attempts to raise his arms Tuesday, seeing them as a sign he was communicating. But doctors said the trembling may signal small seizures, she noted in a later post.

Through it all, she thanks God for the good and asks all to pray for her son.

Friends of the Johansen basketball player held a prayer rally the week after the crash. “He is an amazing guy. He will come back from this. I have faith in him,” Victoria Slefo, a rally organizer, said that day.

Excessive speed on a rain-slick road was blamed in the early morning wreck that so destroyed Penton’s beloved green Acura that it took 30 first responders an hour to extricate him from the wreckage. No drugs or alcohol were in his system. Penton suffered a torn aorta, broken femur and brain damage, McClure said.

Acosta posted a photo of the decorated overcrossing on Facebook. “We freezed our butts off getting this done but we knew you’d love it (and) that you are worth not being able to feel our fingers, lol #pray4robbie.P,” she wrote.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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