Nancy Reyer and her son, Michael Hubbard, had always planned to go skydiving on his 18th birthday.
Michael turned 18 on Saturday, and while he and his mom couldn’t skydive, they found a way to still complete their goal at Skydive Long Island.
More than three years after her son was badly burned in a gel candle accident in 2011 — an accident that has left him in need of constant care for traumatic brain injuries — Nancy Reyer will be honored at a fundraising gala next month at Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center in Riverhead.
And a little more than a month after she watched him earn an honorary diploma at Riverhead High School, Ms. Reyer will be named Caretaker of the Year for her dedication and hard work caring for Michael, as well as her constant work to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury survivors and for Brendan House, a group home under development on Sound Avenue that will one day serve as Michael’s new residence.
The award will be presented to Ms. Reyer at the 6th Annual Summer Gala, a fundraiser for the traumatic brain injury nonprofit New Beginnings Community Center — the organization building Brendan House — Aug. 15.
“She’s always out there talking to businesses, promoting our fundraising,” said Allyson Scerri, founder of New Beginnings Community Center. “She’s amazing.”
But Ms. Reyer said she’s just “doing what any mother would do.” She said it’s the people and businesses across Riverhead who have supported her, Michael, and Brendan House that deserve the praise.
“It’s such an honor to come from such a loving town,” she said. “It makes me feel proud.”
Several businesses — like Riverhead Building Supply, Lowes, and Home Depot — have donated supplies and construction materials for Brendan House, which will provide 24-hour care for up to eight residents suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Costs for care would be covered by the patients’ insurance, Ms. Scerri said.
The 1,900-square-foot historic property being renovated for the project was built in the early 1900s and once served as a group home for unwed mothers. The building was given to New Beginnings in 2011, and plans for Brendan House began soon after.
As part of its renovation, a 2,500-square-foot extension was built on the rear of the structure.
The property is named after Brendan Aykroyd, a 25-year-old Blue Point resident who died in 2011 after suffering a brain injury in an assault two years earlier.
Ms. Scerri said the group hopes to open Brendan House this fall. She said that while the siding of the house is finished, the home still needs to have fire alarm systems installed and must undergo inspections.
“It was a tough winter to get through, but we’re on a bit of a roll now,” Ms. Scerri said. She said that while Brendan House has received numerous donations, the group still needs more funding to pay laborers and contractors to finish the job.
Sound Beach resident Pawel Bistram really is Superman.
Wearing a shirt featuring the superhero’s iconic logo, he soared through the air Sunday afternoon in Calverton after jumping out of an airplane. He then turned himself into a “human bowling ball” and struck a bunch of novelty-sized inflatable pins, knocking them all down with his body.
He was the only person to have a strike at the area’s first-ever human bowling ball event. The fundraiser was sponsored by Skydive Long Island and All-Star bowling in Riverhead and benefits Brendan House, a group care facility planned for Riverhead.
“It was awesome,” Mr. Bistram said shortly after jumping. “I must have had perfect timing and the wind was just right.”
Fellow skydiver Domenick Gilio of Setauket also had a successful jump, leaving only two standing.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I tried to hit as many pins as possible with my body by spreading my legs as wide as I could.”
Nancy Reyer, whose 17-year-old son, Michael Hubbard, plans to move into Brendan House when it opens, attended the event and said she’s grateful for all the support from participants. The facility is estimated to open within the next four months.
“The community has been behind us 100 percent,” she said as her eyes teared up. “Everyone has been really good to us.”
Ms. Reyer said she plans to skydive for the first time on Michael’s 18th birthday Aug. 16 to raise additional funds for Brendan House.
Her son suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body after being burned by a gel candle that exploded in his backyard May 28, 2011. He went into cardiac arrest a week later, causing traumatic brain injury, as well as kidney failure and lung distress. Michael was originally taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center, but was moved to Blythedale that September.
Blythedale, a short-term care facility, could no longer keep Michael for the extended care he needs, his mother has said. It left her looking for other facilities.
In June, he moved to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead with much fanfare, an arrangement Ms. Reyer said she’s very pleased with.
“His physical therapy at PBMC is nothing but the best,” she said. “Michael was born there and was raised in Riverhead … Every day is a new day and he’s making progress.”
As for the unique fundraising idea, Ms. Reyer said one of her grade-school friends works at Skydive Long Island and had talked to the owners about holding a benefit there for Brendan House.
The timing was good because over the past six months Skydive and All-Star have been coming up with cross-promotional ideas and developing community fundraisers. Recently, the small business owners created a cocktail called LIV free or DIVE. It’s made with locally produced Long Island Spirits’ LIV vodka from Baiting Hollow.
All-Star co-owner Peter Sgroi said he’s happy to be a part of the area’s first human bowling ball event and described it as a fun way to help the community.
“It couldn’t be more perfect,” Mr. Sgroi said of Sunday’s fundraiser. “The turnout is great and the weather couldn’t be better.”
New Beginnings, a Medford nonprofit group that offers support for people with traumatic brain injuries and owns Brendan House, is holding a country fair Sept. 29 at Brendan House to raise funds for the facility. The event will include pig and duck races, music from the Boot Scoot Boogie Band, games, prizes and refreshments.
For more information, visit New Beginnings’ website nbli.org.