Tag Archives: student

Mobility Matters: “You Are Always Stronger Than You Think You Are”

Just a few days before her final college exams, Morgan Ott fell through scaffolding and became paralyzed from the chest down with limited right hand function. Twenty-two year-old Morgan explains how life has changed since the injury and how mobility impacts her daily life.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

Morgan fundraises for mobility essentials


How much did you know about spinal cord injury before you were injured?


Before my injury, I knew little to nothing about spinal cord injury. I have learned a tremendous amount since. When my injury happened, my close friends and family members researched spinal cord injury, the healing process and how my day-to-day life would be affected. I am learning new things every day.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

Morgan says she “is learning new things every day”


How did your community respond to your injury?


My family has been by my side from the moment I was in the emergency room. In the beginning, they took me to all of my doctors’ appointments and therapy sessions. Now, they are still always there when I need someone to talk to or if I need any help. Coworkers, friends and the community also reached out to show me their support.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

Friends and family have supported Morgan throughout her journey

My friends came to visit me in the hospital often, and one of my sorority sisters set me up with my first fundraising page with a goal of $5,000 on a crowdfunding platform. I switched from a crowdfunding site to HelpHOPELive because I had heard great things about the organization, and how it was easier to continuously raise funds for lifetime expenses with support from HelpHOPELive. Fundraising with HelpHOPELive allows me to request the funds when I need them instead of having to wait until I reach a set goal amount.


Will fundraising influence your mobility options?


Yes! I am currently fundraising for a Galileo tilt table, therapy at Project Walk, a standing frame, an FES system to help my circulation and keep my muscles active, and a Smartdrive power assist device to help me get around more easily by myself.


Have you experienced a range of different emotions since you were injured?


I think I have experienced probably every emotion possible, from extreme happiness to feeling very depressed. I often find that when I am the happiest, I think more about how much better my situation would be if I could just get up and walk again, and then I get very sad. It’s like extreme happiness comes with a price. Most days, though, I am very content and just happy to be where I am.


What do you think is the most common misconception about life in a wheelchair?


A lot of people assume that since I am in a wheelchair I need help with every daily activity or that I can’t live on my own or provide for myself. Most people are also surprised when they find out that I drive (with the use of hand controls).

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

“A lot of people assume…I need help with every daily activity”


What advice would you give to someone else living with a spinal cord injury?


You are always stronger than you think you are. No matter what obstacles life gives you, there are ways to get past them and continue living a healthy life. In terms of working with HelpHOPELive and covering your expenses, it’s never too late to fundraise, but the sooner the better.


Do you still strive to maintain an active lifestyle?


I recently moved down to southern California with my best friend. I am pursuing physical therapy twice a week for two hours per session, and I am finishing school with Arizona State University online. I am planning to get a job within the next couple of weeks to help me keep busy and make money. I also started attending a wheelchair dance class in which there are many other women around my age in chairs learning and performing routines.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

Morgan attends a chair-inclusive dance class


What are your biggest mobility priorities at the moment?


I am focused on staying active with my physical therapies. My goal for physical therapy is to work on core strength and balance and gain back any amount of function, no matter how small.


Where would you like to be in five or 10 years?


In five years, I will have graduated from college and hopefully have a steady job that I enjoy. I can see myself in a steady relationship, establishing a life for myself, having done some traveling in Europe and Asia. In 10 years, I would like to have a successful career and a family.


In your video, you say, “We were going to make it through” after the accident. Do you still feel that way?


More so now than when I was in the hospital, I feel like I’m going to make it through. Keeping a positive attitude definitely helps me carry out day-to-day activities with more confidence and happiness.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

“Keeping a positive attitude definitely helps me,” says Morgan


Unlock new mobility possibilities for yourself or someone you love. Start a fundraising campaign with HelpHOPELive at helphopelive.org. Mobility matters!

The Emotional Impact Of Fundraising

Retired teacher Bob Wollenberg received a double lung transplant on February 19, 2016. During his 36 years as a public school teacher, drama director and coach in Boyne City, Michigan, Bob made a difference in the lives of countless children and young adults. When his family began fundraising with HelpHOPELive in December 2015, his community finally had the opportunity to give back to the man who had given them so much. Bob explains how accepting community support has impacted his life.

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“You were a guiding influence, and I thank you for that.” -Former Student


I always tried to treat my students as individuals, not just as another student in a class. Now, they are paying it forward to me.


“Thank you for your years of dedication to the community and to the children of Boyne City.” -Community Member


There is no way that my wife, Jackie, and I could have weathered the storm of bills without my friends and past students helping out. There are so many hidden costs that insurance doesn’t cover. I live in northern Michigan; driving down to Chicago to take part in a specific lung transplant program is crucial to help me maintain my health and secure a transplant. The mileage, gas and travel costs alone for those trips are a huge expense. My HelpHOPELive campaign is helping me pay for all of this!


“I am forever grateful to B.W. for inspiring me to become a more creative, confident and dynamic person.” -Former Student


My donors have helped both monetarily and emotionally–community support has become a huge part of my lung transplant journey. I have heard from so many past students. It’s incredible. Some of my HelpHOPELive contributors go all the way back to 1972 when I first started teaching and coaching. I keep thinking about the number of times I gave students lunch money because I knew they didn’t have any and would skip lunch without it. As much as I could, I helped. Now, those same students are “buying my lunch,” so to speak. We have helped each other.


“I have fantastic memories of my time as your student.” -Former Student


My online donation page helped me to communicate with all my donors. Reading guestbook comments on my HelpHOPELive page, especially comments from my former students, has been a heartwarming experience. You never really know how much you impact a student until years later when you hear from them. It just makes your teaching career worth it in every respect. Many friends and students wrote in and I was able to write updates on my page to respond to their comments. My HelpHOPELive campaign is clear, easy to use and just what I needed.


“This man changed my life and showed me parts of the world that I might never have seen without him. He gave us his all.” -Former Student


One of my top literature students from the past, who became a professional writer, sold a copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird” that he had signed and donated the money (to HelpHOPELive) in my honor. He said, “I owe my writing and love of literature to Mr. Wo.” How wonderful is that!


“You gave a small town girl a chance to experience culture and a safe place to be herself. This is the least I can do for you.” -Former Student


At first, I was reluctant to ask for help. I thought people would look down on me for asking. I was totally wrong. My community has been incredible. They have supported me in such a big way. When I was feeling uneasy about asking for help, someone in my community said to me, “If I needed help, would you help me in any way you could afford?” My answer was, “Of course.” I had not looked at it from his perspective until then. I absolutely suggest working with HelpHOPELive and getting in touch with people in your home community.


Bob and his family fundraise with HelpHOPELive for travel, relocation, co-pays, lab costs and other transplant-related expenses. Want to rally your own community to fundraise for your medical and related expenses? Start your own fundraising journey today.

Meet Live Award Honoree Aaron Loy

We present our 2015 Live award to HelpHOPELive client Aaron Loy for inspiration after illness following a double amputation after severe complications from bacterial meningitis.

In 2013, Aaron Loy was a dedicated student and a passionate athlete who enjoyed lacrosse, soccer, surfing and biking. As a freshman at the University of California Santa Barbara, Aaron was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive strain of bacterial meningitis with no U.S.-approved vaccine. The disease progressed rapidly, causing a blood infection and severe internal complications.

Three other university students recovered from the meningitis outbreak with no permanent damage. Aaron’s illness took a different course. Doctors were able to save Aaron and provide antibiotics to eradicate the illness, but only after amputating both of his lower legs.

Aaron Loy prosthetics meningitis

Aaron Loy lost his legs to bacterial meningitis. Picture courtesy of the LA Times.

Watching his own story covered on the news, Aaron recalls lying in the hospital in a state of shock, thinking, “No, I don’t think this is real…I don’t want this to be true.” The catastrophic event shook Aaron and his community to the core. Family members and classmates from Aaron’s hometown and the University of California Santa Barbara community immediately turned to HelpHOPELive to help cover his pressing medical expenses, including co-pays, prosthetics and intensive physical rehabilitation.

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Friends planned dozens of fundraisers from percentage of sales nights to bake sales and car washes. In December of 2013, supporters from Aaron’s home lacrosse team organized the Aaron Loy Lacrosse Shootout, an all-ages event that invited 300 players to complete in honor of Aaron. The event raised more than $18,000 towards Aaron’s medical bills.

Discharged after three months in the hospital, Aaron was too weak to maneuver his own wheelchair. But he set his sights on a formidable goal: regaining his independence by literally getting back on his feet. Aaron took his first steps in prosthetic legs in March of 2014. He continued to practice diligently, improving his strength and coordination at prosthetic therapy sessions three to five times each week.

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Within a year of his diagnosis, Aaron had fought his way to a fulfilling and independent life that included returning to college 200 miles away from his home community, biking to class and hanging out with his friends. And he’s not done yet: Aaron plans to get back on the lacrosse field, go snowboarding and devote his time to helping others who have experienced catastrophic injuries to defy the odds.

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“He gets up every day with a smile on his face, puts his legs on and just carries on,” his mother, Kirsten, told NBC San Diego in 2014. “While his body recovers, his spirits and optimism remain high.”

Image courtesy of the LA Times.

Aaron lives with grace and motivation after illness. Image courtesy of the LA Times.

help-hope-live-it-upThe Live award will be presented to Aaron at this year’s HelpHOPE-Live it Up! benefit on October 16.

Learn more about Aaron.

Each year at HelpHOPELive’s annual signature fundraising event, HelpHOPE-Live It Up!, we honor community heroes who prove why our mission matters with the Help, HOPE and Live awards. In 2015, we’re also giving out an Advocacy and Volunteer of the Year award.