Nancy Reyer held back tears as she spoke about how Michael Hubbard, her 16-year-old son who was seriously burned in a gel candle accident in May 2011, would benefit from a proposed group home in Riverhead for traumatic brain injury victims.
“It’s nothing but the grace of God that Brendan House is going to be two miles away from where I live,” Ms. Reyer said. “If this is not God in the works, I don’t know what is.”
Renovations and fundraising efforts are almost ready to begin for Brendan House, a planned 12-bed long-term care home on Sound Avenue for people with brain injuries and other cognitive issues, organizers said at an informational meeting last Thursday night in Medford, attended by about a dozen people, including Ms. Reyer.
Organizers said they’re in the process of getting permits from Riverhead Town to begin improvements on the structure, which once served as housing for single mothers before it was donated last year to New Beginnings Community Center, a nonprofit outpatient rehab center in Medford.
New Beginnings and nonprofit group Family Residences & Essential Enterprises of Old Bethpage will run the home, named in honor of Brendan Aykroyd, a 25-year-old Blue Point man who suffered a brain injury in a 2009 assault. Mr. Aykroyd joined New Beginnings to continue his rehabilitation last year but died in his sleep that June.
The home will allow victims of traumatic brain injuries to live independently while still receiving the care they need. Few centers like Brendan House currently exist to aid people who are in need of long-term care but too young for seniors-only assisted living facilities, a February special report in the News-Review found.Family Residences & Essential Enterprises has already begun interviews with potential housemates; Michael has been guaranteed a spot in the home already, New Beginning’s founder Alysson Scerri said.
Since there are no local options for Michael to receive the support he needs, he must stay at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y., more than 80 miles away from his Riverhead home.
Plans for Brendan House, designed pro bono by architect Roger Smith of BBS Architecture, who designed the Long Island Aquarium and the Hyatt Place East End hotel, are nearly complete, said project manager and New Beginnings executive vice president Steve Scerri.
Once the permits and plans are finalized in the next month or two, fundraising and renovations for the home will begin in earnest.
“We’re still going to need volunteers. We’re going to need materials,” Mr. Scerri said.
Renovations are expected to cost between $200,000 and $250,000, volunteers said. The group has already received donations from The Home Depot and has several shipping containers of supplies already on hand, but it will need funds to complete the construction work.
Supporters discussed ways to raise money for the project. Carolyn Carrera, a classmate of Michael’s, said she would try to organize students at Riverhead High School to help with construction efforts and would also sell T-shirts. Ms. Reyer suggested the group set up a booth at the upcoming Riverhead Country Fair to raise awareness and funds.
A first fundraising event has already been organized, a golf outing in Mount Sinai on Sept. 25, Ms. Scerri said.
In the meantime, Ms. Reyer will continue to do what she’s done for more than a year: fight to help her son. Michael is making progress in his recovery and now smiles and laughs, gifts Ms. Reyer said are the “greatest things” God gave her back, she said at last week’s meeting.
“We’ve come a long way,” she told those in attendance. “I just continue to say the Devil is a liar; my son will walk and talk someday.”