Local restaurant holds fundraiser for paralyzed Harvard football player

Crowds swarmed a Cambridge restaurant to raise money for a college student recovering from a life-changing injury.

Ben Abercrombie suffered a spinal cord injury during his first game as a member of the Harvard University football team, and for the second year in a row the Cambridge community came together to support him.

Customers lined up at El Jefe's Taqueria in Harvard Square as soon as the doors opened; they were there for the second "Ben Abercrombie Day."

"It's reaffirming of people's commitment to ben and his family," said John Schall the owner of El Jefe’s.

Related: Harvard community rallies to support Ben Abercrombie

In September 2017 Ben, then a freshman defensive back at Harvard, suffered a serious spinal cord injury on his first tackle in his first college game. He was left paralyzed.

"Ben's facing a life-time," Schall said. "He's doing an absolutely incredible job."

Last year El Jefe's raised $27,000 by donating an entire day's worth of sales to a fund for Ben and his family. And now the restaurant is doing it again.

"El Jefe's has been incredibly generous in their contribution to the cause," said Jake McIntyre, the junior kicker for Harvard.

"By us doing this fundraiser it also generates interest in the online fundraiser that the Harvard varsity club is running," Schall added.

Abercrombie's teammates say he's been an inspiration to them. They are grateful for the response of the entire Harvard community.

"It's well deserving of Ben," said John Stivers, a junior tight end on the team. "He has fought so hard in this battle."

Abercrombie is recovering at home with his family in Alabama. Last month, he returned to campus for the first time since his injury – and was able to join his teammates at Fenway Park for the Harvard-Yale game.

>>MORE: Harvard University pulls together to help injured football player

"What happened to Ben was tragic, but Ben is not tragic." Schall said. "He is an incredibly vibrant, hard-working, dedicated person who's building a new life."

Abercrombie’s immediate goal is to breathe without the help of a ventilator. He's making progress towards that and hopes to return to Harvard as a student in the fall of 2019.

To donate to Ben's cause, please visit the Harvard Varsity Club's online fund or the Stand Up For Ben GoFundMe page

Related: Harvard University football player returns home 4 months after neck injury