“You got this.”
“We love you.”
These words have been written countless times to Nick Coutts and Keri Stromski — two strangers facing separate battles in life.
They do share some commonalities: an unwavering positive outlook and small army of supporters cheering them on.
In September, they will both benefit from an annual community yard sale hosted by local nonprofit Kait’s Angels, which was founded to honor the late Kaitlyn Doorhy of Mattituck.
Kaitlyn’s mantra was “God gave you two hands; one to do for yourself and one to do for others,” her mother, Darla Doorhy, explained.
“Our board, we always keep our eyes open for someone deserving,” she said.
In June, Nick, 25, suffered serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, following a motorcycle crash in Wading River.
“He’s a local kid, he’s a well-known kid,” Ms. Doorhy said. “He’s doing well, but he’s got a long road ahead of him.”
After the accident, friends and family created a Facebook page entitled “Coutts’ Corner” to share prayers and well wishes and his mother, Tess Bannon, shared updates on Nick’s progress.
In the weeks since Nick’s accident, the community has rallied to show support and raise funds for medical bills, selling bracelets and decals and hosting a poker run event that drew over 200 motorcyclists.
“Nick considered Kait to be his angel, along with his grandmother,” who passed away in March, Ms. Bannon said.
The two had been classmates at Mattituck High School, both members of the Class of 2012.
His mother said Nick’s helmet saved his life, along with the quick response from first responders.
Earlier this month, he was able to meet with the EMS crew from the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps to say thank you. He’s now hoping to spread awareness to drivers to use caution with the slogan: “Give riders the right of way! It may save a life today!”
Ms. Bannon said she never imagined or expected the support they have received over the last three months.
“The outpouring of community support is overwhelming, though not surprising,” Ms. Bannon said. “We all come together when a family is down.”
Proceeds from the yard sale will also be donated to Keri Stromski, a kindergarten teacher at Aquebogue Elementary School who has been battling Stage 4 breast cancer for nearly three years.
She got to know Ms. Doorhy, who works in her dentist’s office, several years ago and the two became friends.
By December 2016, Ms. Stromski learned her prognosis was Stage 4.
“It was just a whirlwind,” she recalled. But Kait’s Angels quickly stepped in to help, delivering gifts and a meal to the family around the holidays.
“It was a beautiful, magical moment in the middle of a really hard time in our life,” Ms. Stromski said.
The 46-year-old mother of three has continued to teach while undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy — and publicly shares her journey on her Facebook page and personal blog.
She credits her oncologist, Dr. Alison Stopeck, who encourages her to pursue innovative treatment methods, as well as two herbalists, for helping her keep up the fight.
Soon after her diagnosis, Ms. Stromski changed her diet and began taking herbs and supplements, which can cost up to $2,000 per month, but keep her immune system healthy.
“My kids’ college tuition has gone to saving my life,” she said, noting that funds from the yard sale will likely be put toward those medical costs.
Ms. Doorhy said she’s inspired by Ms. Stromski’s positivity.
“She just has such a big heart,” Ms. Doorhy said. “She doesn’t let [cancer] define her.”
And Ms. Stromski is equally moved by the Doorhy family.
“It’s beautiful how they’ve been able to take their tragedy and show people: This is how you keep going,” she said.
During the annual community yard sale, the Doorhy family’s front lawn is transformed into a treasure trove of items donated and purchased by community members.
Since its inception in 2015, it has raised thousands of dollars for neighbors including Ben Pileski, William Esposito, Johanna Benthal, Morgan West, Dylan Newman and Matthew Rolle.
Ms. Doorhy said it has become one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers, something that everyone can get involved with.
“A lot of people don’t have a lot of money to spend on a fundraiser, tickets for a family of four,” she said. “I thought the yard sale was something we could do to bring the whole community together.”
This year’s yard sale is slated for Saturday, Sept. 14, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature a $20 “all you can carry” special starting at noon, Ms. Doorhy said.
Anyone wishing to donate items can drop them off at the Doorhy house, 1125 Ole Jule Lane in Mattituck, on Friday, Sept. 13, between 4 and 6 p.m.
No large furniture can be accepted, Ms. Doorhy said.
Volunteers for the yard sale are also needed and Ms. Doorhy encourages high school students interested in community service hours to contact Kait’s Angels through their website.
As they family remember Kaitlyn on the fifth anniversary of her death, her mother said it’s been tough for the family, but her faith — and the organization — keep her going.
“It’s been a long haul,” Ms. Doorhy said. “But we’re keeping her memory alive.”