When tragic events occur within a family, we would all like to think that family members will rally around us and give us the support we need until the storm passes. And when the event is life changing, when life will never be the same again for you or your family, you really need the love and support that only a family can give.
But, good can come from a family tragedy as Nancy Quesenberry of Pulaski reminds us through her new foundation – formed following the devastating car accident that left her brother paralyzed from the chest down.
On February 27, 2017, Britten Olinger, 31 of Black Mountain, North Carolina was in a crippling car accident that changed the life of the Montreat College track coach.
The accident was not only life-changing for Olinger, but it changed the lives of his young family as well. At the time of his accident he had an 11-month-old daughter, Kolbie and his wife, Sam, who at the time was 10 weeks pregnant with their son, Easton.
It was at this time Quesenberry would discover a calling on her life to help other athletes in her brother’s situation.
The accident occurred less than one mile from Olinger’s home. He had just dropped off a group of athletes where they needed to go. When he pulled out onto the road, a vehicle traveling over 110 miles per hour hit him in the rear door on the driver’s side. The impact was so hard that the sound of the crash scattered store windows nearby. In a split-second the young father’s life changed forever.
“It was a terrible accident,” Quesenberry stated. “It is a miracle that he survived.”
Olinger was taken to Mission Hospital in Ashville, N.C. where he stayed in intensive care for a month and was held in a medically induced coma for two weeks.
“When he woke up his memory was very foggy. We had to tell him what happened over and over again,” recalled Quesenberry.
“Doctors were very concerned about a collapsed lung he sustained during the accident. It was very serious, but he can breathe on his own,” offered Quesenberry. “He hit his head in the accident, but did not sustain a brain injury,” she added thankfully.
“Britten is a Godly man,” said Quesenberry. “He is a Christian and a member of the praise and worship team at his church. It was hard at first, but then he started leaning on God more and more to get him through.”
When he was released from the hospital, Olinger was transferred to Shepherd Rehab Center in Atlanta, which – according to Quesenberry – is one of the best rehab centers in the country.
Olinger stayed at the center for four months.
“He worked very hard during that time and continues to work hard to regain his mobility,” Quesenberry said.
“Britten’s wife, Sam is so sweet, she has been great through all of this,” said Quesenberry. “It has not been easy for her either. She had to deal with all the changes as well as care for a small child while being 10 weeks pregnant. Now she is the mother to two small children.”
Quesenberry’s love for her brother, and the needs she knew her brother would have going forward, had a deep and lasting effect on she and her husband, Zane, a P.E. teacher at Critzer Elementary School.
They went to work raising funds to make changes to her brother’s home, and to provide his family with proper transportation for their special needs.
“I love my brother and his family, and we had to get busy and help any way we could,” said Quesenberry.
The Quesenberrys raised $250,000 dollars, through the use of social media, fundraisers and the help of volunteers.
“People from all over the United States made donations. Our family appreciates so much what everyone has done for Britten and his family,” said Quesenberry.
Using the funds raised, volunteers were able to add a bedroom to the Olinger home, two handicap ramps, a deck, and widened all hallways and doorways in the home. They added a new master bath with handicap accessible bathing facilities and bathing equipment and paved the driveway. A special handicap accessible van was also purchased for the family.
Quesenberry credited Mike Shoaf, the Montreat College Facilities Director, for leading the renovation.
“Britten cannot drive yet, but he is working toward that goal,” said Quesenberry. Olinger has also returned to Montreat College as assistant track coach.
“I wanted to tell my brother’s story so that we can help other athletes with spinal cord injuries. I feel God has called me to help other athletes who are in the same situation. So, we founded the Britten Strong Foundation,” said Quesenberry.
The foundation is a non-profit public charity.
“We want to help families with their immediate needs, such as housing, housing modifications, insurance, vehicles, shower chairs, etc. Also, beginning in June we will begin collecting lap blankets for athletes with spinal cord injuries. People who have this type of injury cannot regulate their body temperature,” said Quesenberry.
Quesenberry is so stranger to helping people with disabilities as she works for New River Valley Community Services as Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Program Assistant.
“If you would like to make a lap blanket for the foundation it would be greatly appreciated by us, but more importantly by the athletes themselves,” said Quesenberry.
“The overflow of blankets will be given to the Women’s Resource Centers in Radford and Wytheville, or if you know an athlete in high school, college or even an avid runner who has sustained a spinal cord injury, please contact the foundation, we would like to help,” concluded Quesenberry.
If you are interested in making a blanket, referring someone to the foundation or making a donation you can go to www.Brittenstrong.org (there is a donation button on the website), or mail your donation to the Britten Strong Foundation at PO Box 2188, Pulaski, Va. 24301.
For more information email the foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit them on Facebook at Facebook.com/Brittenstrong
By LINDA WILLIAMS, The Patriot