Community

Fall festival at Brendan House to benefit woman who suffered spinal cord injury in accident

The Brendan House in Riverhead will host a fall festival this Saturday to benefit its residents, including Dana Barrett of East Quogue.

Ms. Barrett, 29, is living with a spinal cord injury stemming from a tragic diving accident in July 2019.

Following the accident, she was airlifted to Stony Brook University, where doctors determined she suffered a C2 fracture, paralyzing her from the neck down.

Allyson Scerri, whose children went to Westhampton Beach High School with Ms. Barrett, said she knew Dana would have a long road ahead of her. “My son, he’s a man of few words but he said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to help Dana.’ ”

Though her journey has presented several setbacks due to the sudden onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Dana was able to move into the Brendan House in late July.

“The day she moved in, I saw the look in her eyes and could just tell that this girl has got what it takes to find a way; to find a life,” Ms. Scerri said.

Prior to moving into the Brendan House, Ms. Barrett was cared for at a nursing home and faced months of isolation because of COVID-19.

“It’s much better here because I can see family and my close friends,” Ms. Barrett said in a phone interview last Thursday. “Even during Covid when I was isolated, they’d FaceTime me and stay on the phone with me. It’s made a huge difference.”

In the months since her accident, friends, family and community members have rallied to support Ms. Barrett, who has faced tragedy in life before. According to a GoFundMe page created to aid in her recovery, Ms. Barrett lost her father at 16 and her mother at 21. “Despite this, she has always held her head high and has amazed her friends and family with her strength and selflessness. With every trial she has faced, she has always come out stronger,” the page said. The GoFundMe remains active in order to raise funds for Ms. Barrett’s long-term needs.

The Brendan House, which opened in 2017, is a residential facility for adults living with physical and cognitive disabilities. Construction is currently underway to convert a standalone garage on the property into a totally accessible living space that Ms. Barrett will be the first to occupy.

“Not being able to move, eat or drink for the first month and a half of my injury was really rough,” Ms. Barrett said. “I’m adjusting to a new lifestyle.”

She said she most enjoys the view of the farm fields and ability to have her nursing staff by her side 24/7 at the Brendan House. 

But Ms. Barrett is most looking forward to moving into her new apartment, which will offer her the chance to be as independent as possible.

“I can’t wait, it’s going to be great,” she said, describing what she’s deemed her “smart house.” The apartment will be equipped with everything from a smart TV to voice-activated controls for the heating and cooling system, lights, cameras and locks.

Donations of time, materials and funding have all contributed to the apartment, which is expected to be completed in just a few weeks. “What’s nice about that is it’s an investment for the Brendan House to help others down the road. Dana will have left her mark,” Ms. Scerri said.

The fall festival will feature craft vendors, live music, medical organizations, food, pumpkin painting and raffles, according to Allyson Scerri, executive director of New Beginnings, which runs the group home.

A rain date is scheduled for Oct. 25. Masks and social distancing are required and capacity will be limited to ensure compliance with the state’s guidelines, Ms. Scerri said.

Admission is free to the festival, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. 

For more information about the harvest fair or to sign up as a vendor, contact Allyson Scerri at 631-245-0333 or email [email protected].

To make a donation for Dana Barrett, visit gofundme.com/danabarrettstrong.