Fundraiser for Riverhead burn victim turns up sellout crowd

03/26/2012 7:39 AM |

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Curtis Johnson, Nancy Reyer, Fran Reyer-Johnson and Shelby Block at Sunday's fundraiser for Michael Hubbard.

“I’ve cried all the tears that I can cry. I’ve shed a lot of them, and now it’s just joy in knowing that my son is alive.”

Those were Nancy Reyer’s words Sunday at a sold-out fundraiser for her and her son, Michael Hubbard, who remains in Blydedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, NY after being badly burned in a gel candle explosion in his backyard last May 28.

Michael suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body, and then went into cardiac arrest a week later and suffered traumatic brain injury, as well as kidney failure and lung distress. Michael was originally taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center, but in September was moved to Blythedale in Westchester County.

Ms. Reyer spends most of her time with him. She said she only comes home to Riverhead a couple of days per month.

He hasn’t been able to speak since then, although he says individual words, and Ms. Reyer said she’s encouraged by the fact that he laughs when she plays a “fart app” on her cell phone for him. Progress is slow but positive, she said.

“To watch my sister go through this pain has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do myself,” said Fran Reyer-Johnson, Nancy’s sister.

“She stays by his side and lives out of her car and sleeps in the hospital room with Michael for the past 10 months while all of us live in our homes,” she continued. “She’s a single mom who gave up her job, her home and her life just to be with her son. Never to leave his side.”

Sunday’s fundraiser at Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue was a sellout, with 200 tickets sold, according to Ms. Reyer-Johnson. She said she got calls from about 240 people who wanted to go, but they could only hold 200.

“We were two single moms raising our boys together for the past 14 years,” a teary Ms. Reyer-Johnson told the crowd Sunday. “Just the two of us. And sometimes it’s hard for me to celebrate my son’s joys and accomplishments, and I know that Michael has missed so much.”

The accident happened the day after Ms. Reyer-Johnson got married.

Ms. Reyer said she’s thankful for all the support the Riverhead community has given her family. And she’s also become a crusader to get the citronella candle that exploded and injured her son pulled off the market.

“My journey has not stopped because this candle is still out there, there are a lot of people who don’t know about it,” she said Sunday, addressing people at the fundraiser. She said even Michael’s nurses discovered, after seeing her on television talking about the candles, that they had some of them in their own homes.

“There are 80 victims, my son isn’t the only one, so keep all of them in your prayers,” Ms. Reyer said.

The 200 people at Sunday’s fundraiser paid $40 for a ticket and were treated to music from That 70′s Band, as well a buffet, and a Chinese auction and raffle with gifts donated by local businesses.

A fund has been set up to help Ms. Reyer and her son. The address is Michael Hubbard Fund, 81 Rabbit Run, Riveread, NY 11901.

And people can follow Michael’s progress at a caringbridge.org.

Ms. Reyer-Johnson said she envisions Michael someday returning home recovered, and the town holding a parade for him.

And Ms. Reyer said she’s not giving up.

“He’s the greatest gift I got from God and I’m not turning him back,” she said.

tgannon@timesreview.com