A Long Island community is rallying around a young woman who was set to graduate college this Spring and head to medical school, when her life took a tragic turn in March.
A freak ski accident in Vermont left 21-year-old Rebecca Koltun a quadriplegic, unable to breathe on her own. Her father, Scott, said that his daughter was found without a pulse, and she had to be revived several times.
Both Scott and his wife Audrey have stopped working so they can be by their daughter's side as she remains in a Boston rehab center, paralyzed from the shoulders down and learning how to live her new life. But the costs have been astronomical.
Rebecca was supposed to go to Nashville this weekend with her best friend, Jessica Scheibel, but the accident changed everything.
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"She is the most bubbly, chattery, entertaining person in the world. She's my favorite person to do everything with," Scheibel said.
Scheibel keeps contact with her through FaceTime, and she is helping raise funds for the family.
"I absolutely feel helpless, but the only thing we can do as her closest friends is to raise money for her and to get her the help she needs," she said.
Different businesses in the community have stepped up to give a helping hand for the Binghamton University senior. On Tuesday, part of the day's sales at Pete the Greek restaurant in Old Betpage will go to helping Rebecca get the care she needs. On Wednesday and in the days that follow, it will be other restaurants.
The owners of Family Bagels in Plainview hosted a fundraiser over the weekend, and will do another on Saturday. They have also made a coffee especially for her, called Becca's Brew. It will be sold at their store, will all proceeds going to help Rebecca.
"The whole situation is very unfortunate, make you not take life for granted. In a split second, it could be all over," said Michael Schatt, the co-owner of Family Bagels.
Any businesses, from large corporations to small, local businesses, that have contributed to help are featured on a window in town. Either more room is going to have to be made, or a bigger window will be needed — because more donations are on the way.
Rebecca's story has broken the hearts of many across the country. With the help of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, they have been able to raise $500,000 to pay directly for her medical bills. In addition to that, Scheibel and her mother have collected donations and money for raffle baskets, raising $15,000 thus far.
Rebecca's parents have been floored by the response, and said it inspires hope.
"It absolutely means the world to us," Scott said.
"Most people we don't even know," said Audrey. "It gives us hope maybe that the power of prayer in such masses will work. We hear stories and we hope her story will be one of some positivity."
This story has been updated to correct the amount of money that Rebecca Koltun's friends have raised.