Community rallies to help burn victim, family

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead High School students suds up a sedan during the car wash to benefit Michael Hubbard.

Three weeks ago, Miranda Bennett barely even knew who Michael Hubbard was.

But that didn’t stop the Riverhead High School sophomore from grabbing a few towels from her home, buying some sponges and spending her Friday sudsing up sedans and SUVs at a fundraiser to help the 14-year-old burn victim’s family.

Michael, a Riverhead High School freshman, was severely burned when he poured fuel in an already lit citronella gel candle May 28. He has been in the intensive care unit at Stony Brook University Medical Center ever since.

Michael is medically insured but his mother, Nancy Reyer, who was also burned in the incident, is not.

“If that was one of my close friends, I would want people to help,” Miranda said.

Miranda and about 30 of Michael’s classmates, mostly students in history teacher Patrick Burke’s classes, washed scores of cars at the fundraiser at Jiffy Lube on Route 58 in Riverhead.

The event, which charged $5 to wash a car and $10 to wash an SUV, raised just under $3,000 to help Michael and his mother, who is on an unpaid leave from her job as she cares for Michael.

“We had people who were paying 40 dollars for a car wash,” Mr. Burke said. “It was just amazing.”

The following day, Michael’s teammates on the high school bowling team held a fundraiser at Wildwood Lake Bowl, Northampton. That event raised nearly $3,500.

“I’ve known him for a while and he has been a good friend,” said bowling team co-captain John Horton, one of the event’s organizers. “His mom always helps out, even if my car had broken down. She would help me out.” He said that more than 100 people had crammed into the bowling alley Saturday.

“I was bowling at the time and I looked around and was like, this is a lot of people,” he said.

He presented the money to Michael’s aunt, Fran Reyer-Johnson after the event.

“By then end of the night she was crying with tears of joy,” John said.

Ms. Reyer-Johnson also won the night’s 50-50 raffle and donated the proceeds to her sister.

Local businesses like Robert James Salon & Spa and the 7-Eleven near the Roanoke Avenue traffic circle have taken up collections as well, and the Riverhead Girl Scouts are planning a car wash at the Chase Bank in front of Walmart on Sundays, June 19 and 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $5 per vehicle.

As for Michael’s mother, a former town Republican committee chairperson, she said she was overwhelmed by the community’s support.

“I cannot believe the pictures of the car wash from yesterday,” Ms. Reyer wrote on Michael’s recovery blog at “Michael would [have] loved it, especially the girls in shorts holding signs with his name on it.”

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