AuSABLE FORKS — After a spinal cord injury in 2010 left her mostly paralyzed, Michaela Bushey was amazed by the level of support offered by her community.
Now, two years later, that same neighborhood again surprised her with the support displayed for her charity food drive.
Between Oct. 31 and Nov. 26, residents donated nearly 200 food items that Bushey delivered this week to the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity (JCEO) for Clinton and Franklin Counties Community Outreach Center that serves the Town of Black Brook.
Black Brook Town Supervisor Ricky Nolan said the donations are greatly appreciated, especially during the holiday season, and would be put to good use.
“It’s very thoughtful,” he said.
Bushey said the results far exceeded her expectations, considering her limited experience with organizing charity events.
“I’m thankful for everybody that donated and helped me out,” she said.
Bushey, a graduate student studying literacy education at SUNY Plattsburgh, said the idea began as part of a class assignment to develop a social justice project.
While brainstorming ideas, she thought about the generosity she had frequently seen in her own community.
Bushey was injured in 2010 when she dove into a pool and struck her head. Soon afterwards, she and her family received a wave of support from all directions, ranging from financial donations to construction projects aimed at making her home more easily accessible.
“They are always ready and willing to step up and help their own, and I think that’s a really amazing attitude,” she said.
She decided that she wanted to use her charity project to give back to the community that devoted time and effort to her family and is always stepping up for others, too.
Bushey came up with the idea of placing food donation boxes at local businesses. Yet rather than quietly putting them around town, she developed an advertising campaign to get the word out.
Along with putting up posters, she came up with the idea of “trick-or-canning.”
On Halloween night, as kids in costumes scattered around seeking candy, Bushey went door to door collecting food donations and promoting the donation boxes.
Chilly weather that day cut her effort short, but Bushey wants to repeat the holiday fundraiser next year. However, she was considering changing the name of the Halloween fundraiser to one used for similar event she found online.
“They had called it ‘Trick or Treat so Kids can Eat,’ and I thought that was much catchier,” Bushey said.
Beyond the charity project assignment, she said she couldn’t be happier with her graduate courses.
“I feel really passionate about the work that I’ll be doing.”
Bushey graduated from Ithaca College in the winter of 2011 with a degree in music education. Then she took roughly a year and a half off to focus on her physical therapy.
The therapy largely focuses on two goals: mobility and maintenance.
Bushey said maintenance involves keeping her active to ward off conditions that she is at risk of, such as osteoporosis.
Mobility involves exercises that promote strength and movement in her body. Since 2011, she said, she has made major improvements in upper body strength and arm mobility, which has made tasks like brushing her hair much easier.
“Every little bit is helpful in my everyday life, so I’m glad I took the time to do that,” Bushey said.
Though she took a few classes during that period to keep herself busy, Bushey eventually found herself looking to either get a job or continue her education. Hearing about the graduate program at Plattsburgh, she decided to apply.
She eventually hopes to work as a literacy specialist in an elementary school, offering lesson suggestions to teachers and serving as a literacy tutor for their students.
Bushey describes Kyle Devins as her “biggest supporter,” and now she and her boyfriend are engaged to be married.
Devins said his fiancee has always been stronger than she thinks she is.
“She’s always going to be motivated to keep working hard and giving things back,” he said.