John Owsley said his family and friends have really helped make his life better following a serious car accident he had in 2011 that left him paralyzed from the chest down and in a wheelchair.
Owsley now has his own apartment at the home of his sister, Robin Carioti, and her husband, Perry, on Adrian Street thanks to donations both monetary and in labor, which enabled the transformation of a garage and basement into his new home.
Owsley was in a one-car accident in August 2011 in Cortland, where his vehicle hit two trees and telephone pole and left him with a broken neck. He has received therapy and is in a wheelchair.
Howland Community News / Bob Coupland
John Owsley, seated, who was injured in an auto accident in 2011, was able to move in with his sister’s family in Howland after donations and volunteers helped to raise funds to transform a garage and basement into his new apartment. With Owsley in his wheelchair-accessible apartment are friends and family, from left, Sarah Zuga, Gary Zuga Jr., Gary Zuga Sr. of Z-Tech Builders in Cortland, and Perry, Robin and Anthony Carioti of Howland.
After being in the hospital for several months, Owsley was given an option of either going to a nursing home or coming to his sister and brother-in-law's home.
"There was no way we were going to put him in a nursing home at 29," said Perry Carioti.
While Owsley was receiving rehabilitation at Hillside Hospital, the Cariotis were discussing how to make their home handicapped accessible.
Gary Zuga Sr. and Gary Zuga Jr. of Z-Tech Builders of Cortland remodeled the garage and basement into Owsley's new apartment with kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.
Gary Jr., who has known Owsley for 20 years, said they needed to have some of the apartment ready when Owsley got out of the hospital in December 2011.
"Robin told us John was going to move in with them and asked me what we could do to prepare the house for him. We saw what the situation was, and knew what could be done" he said,.
Zuga said they added a new garage to the front of the house for the Cariotis and turned the old garage and the basement into Owsley's apartment. A wheelchair ramp that leads to the backyard and side door entrance also were added at the side of the house.
"We did what we had to do quickly in order to get him in here. We knew we had a short time frame," Zuga said noting work continued into 2012 and after Owsley moved in.
"It was one year ago I moved in here," Owsley said.
Robin Carioti said the family has been able to adjust with Owsley at the home and follow a routine which includes a lift which helps get Owsley out of bed.
She said her brother has always been a ''go to guy'' and had a hard time watching everyone working when he wanted to help in whatever way he could.
Owsley worked on cars prior to his accident. His employer, Grant Oakes Jr. of Service Guide in Cortland, donated $20,000 to the effort.
Other fundraising efforts including Chinese auctions, dinners , 50-50 raffles, along with donations, and helped raise near $30,000.
Lisa Booze of Project Be Somebody, helped coordinate many of the fundraisers.
''For us this was the true meaning of Christmas. Too many people take things in life for granted. What everyone did to help John was priceless,'' she said.