Charlie's Army

$71,120 of $110,984 goal

Raised by 338 people in 29 months
No Longer Accepting Donations
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Winston Wolfe
on behalf of Charlie Bernstein

On September 20th, Charlie was driving to work.  He was blocks from home.  It was foggy.   And then the world started spinning; his vehicle was thrown into a neighbor's front yard.   His car had been struck, just behind the driver’s door, at speed.   

His neck was shattered and he was left paralyzed.  A C5a Quadriplegic, Charlie’s life has been forever changed.   

The months since then have been grueling.  Charlie had a collapsed lung.  He fought off two bouts of pneumonia.  He's had to train new nerve paths so he can drive a wheelchair, learn how to take care of himself, learn to recognize symptoms of the myriad conditions that afflict quadriplegics.

Since day one, people have asked how they could help—what they could do for Charlie.   We asked a few to help with specific things, but for most of you the answer was: 'Please wait; we will tell you when we need a hand.'  

We called you 'Charlie's Army' and held you in reserve, knowing we'd have to call upon you eventually.   

We're finally at a place where you can lend a hand.  

Charlie has a concrete need: a new bed.

The bed he wants to try is not covered by insurance because it is not a medical bed. In an attempt to normalize life as much as possible, he's opting for a non-medical bed that other quadriplegics have had success with. Naturally, it isn't cheap.

But sleep is difficult for quadriplegics and a good bed is crucial.    

His lack of sensation and movement in the lower extremities present unique problems in getting into and out of bed.  He also has very limited movement in his arms, which prevents him from changing his position easily.   Uninjured people can feel when their body has been too long in one position and move to relieve that pressure.  Charlie no longer has that luxury.  

He needs a bed that can raise both his head and his legs, has adjustable support to avoid pressure points but still be firm enough to facilitate transfer off the bed. He wants a mattress that can accommodate two people so he can safely share a bed.

Sleep Number beds have a track record of success for people in his condition, they offer the options he needs medically, and come in a configuration where two people can sleep in different positions.

However, this means he's looking at several thousand dollars for a bed, hundreds more for new sheets, mattress protectors, blankets, and pillows.

Since it is not covered by insurance, the entire cost will be out of his pocket.   

So here's the plot: we, Charlie's Army, raise enough to pay for his bed and related items to take that burden off him so he can focus on getting well, adapting to his new life, and getting back to work.

Every dollar raised will go to help Charlie meet his new needs so even small donations are important. Charlie's Army is large---it will add up!

Fund Use: All donations will go directly toward offsetting the costs of the items on his 'wish list'. If the campaign is wildly successful and we over-perform, excess funds will be put toward a vehicle so he can get to and from work! (or other expenses related to his new reality).

Anonymous Donations: If you decide to donate but do not wish for your name to appear on the page, there is a 'Make Anonymous' option you can use during the donation process.

Offline Donations: Additionally, if you aren't comfortable using an online service to contribute, you can contact me directly and we can make arrangements for an in-person donation to be added to the collection.  

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A year.

One year ago today we fired up this Go Fund Me Campaign which would go on to directly contribute to a bed, a shower renovation, power door opener, front door ramps, a sidewalk, and a wheelchair accessible van. Every one of these things has improved the quality of Charlie’s life in demonstrable, meaningful ways.

It seems fitting that one year later, as Charlie’s life has stabilized, that we close donations for this campaign today.

32,900 visits to this campaign, 1,800 Facebook shares, 338 donations were made for a total of $71,120.

The outpouring of support has been humbling and amazing. I cannot adequately articulate the gratitude I feel. (Yes, Fer, I am—this one time--- speechless.)

This campaign has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise difficult, complicated, emotional journey.

Thank you all.
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A year ago (almost to the minute of the time of this post), Charlie walked out to his car. He pulled it out of the driveway, turned out of our culdesac, drove a couple blocks down, hung a left, and then woke up in someone’s front lawn.

About that same moment, I took a picture of our backyard. In that picture you cannot see the fenceline, it was so foggy.

Since that day, people have been amazing, supportive, accommodating, understanding, and… damn fine people.


The bed has worked out well—quite nicely. The split king was a great choice. Bathroom has been completed and we had to add a little change to the entrance of his bedroom to accommodate his powerchair. We stole a little from the front door budget to offset that cost, but he’s got good ramps now. The front door is now operable by Charlie without assistance (most of the time—damn deadbolt is still not terribly reliable--- working on that). The 2nd exit is proving to be a bit of a challenge and woefully underfunded--- just expanding the deck nearly doubles that budget, never mind the ramp. The basement access is proving a bit challenging too—though we will have a sidewalk put in this fall so he can get to it by going outside. We’re progressing but we’ve had to reassess what’s practical and adjust some timelines.

We also came to learn that, while Dane County has one of the best handicap bus services available, it’s pretty miserable. The Metro buses aren’t bad--- but their subcontract companies have pretty rough suspensions on their vehicles. And reliability can be an issue. So a personal vehicle became a priority. The minivan, which I’ve taken to calling the Cyborg Transport Vehicle (CTV) is set to deliver this month. Based on the Chrysler Pacifica frame, this is a top of the line machine, custom made for Charlie, complete with an electronic restraint system to keep him safe (removing the need for an elaborate strapping system in lieu of seatbelts). It’s not the MV-1 but it is a great machine made by a company in Arizona and sold through a great lady here in Wisconsin. (Mary Radke is awesome).

Charlie also has been looking at an offroad wheelchair as we’ve found that some of the places he likes to go are not as wheelchair friendly as he’d like. While he’s not looking at tracked chairs, we’ve been demo’ing a standard width chair that has an off road suspension and can be ordered with a 5 point restraint and big knobby tires.

All of that has been helped a great deal by your donations. We would not be this far into these things without it. While Charlie’s employer stepped up and helped a lot (and Charlie is now back at work remotely) the insurance company has dragged its feet on paying out the Accidental Death insurance. Coupled with the fact that it took nearly 7 months to sell his old house, he was carrying 2 mortgages (along with some pretty hefty insurance for the empty place while it sold).

We are so very far away from that day a year ago and we have all you people to than for that.

Thank you. Without you our lives would be very different--- measurably worse.

Thank you all.

Thank you.
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It has been a while since the last update and that's largely because we've started to graduate from the 'plan and organize' stage to 'Get Things Done' mode. It's been a busy time.

Today is the first day of construction on Charlie's new bathroom. The crew is here getting the place prepped for the work. WE Davies is our contractor for this work and they are getting things ready for tradesmen to be going in and out.

When all is done, Charlie will have a shower stall he can get a wheelchair into for bathing, a shower head that can reach all his pieces/parts, bathroom floor that will be easier to keep clean and be safer when wet, some grab bars to prevent falls, and an ADA compliant toilet. It's a big renovation and will also update the look of the wet room to more modern materials.

And this is because of people like you who decided to donate so that Charlie (and his home health care staff) could have a safe environment to take care of his personal needs.

People like you made this happen.

You made this happen.

WE Davies crew
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You people.

I keep getting thanked. And told what a good friend I am. And complimented on how strong I am. And people share how much they admire me. This often leaves me confused, really, because I don’t know what to say. It just feels odd and I often respond ‘I was just the person who stood up. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else.’

On September 20th, I wasn’t the only person to show up at the hospital. I wasn’t even the first. There were many who showed up that first day to sit in that waiting room. There were people who have known Charlie for many years longer than I. There was family, friends, co-workers. In essence, it was you people. Not all of you, certainly, but a group of folks who were you. And things were happening that needed doing, needed organizing. There were problems to solve and communication to make happen. And someone needed to speak for Charlie while he could not speak for himself. And we couldn’t all speak for him. So I stood up.

But it could have been any of you. If it hadn’t been me it would have been one of you people. It might have been you.

Because Charlie inspires love and loyalty. That much is evident. I keep seeing all these people trying to reach out and help. Neighbors. Friends. Co-Workers. Family. Former teachers. Colleagues. And reaching out in all kinds of ways. Cooking meals. Sewing aprons. Cleaning houses. Donating money. Carrying things. Inspecting buildings. Organizing collections.

And none of these things are things that I have made happen. These things are often coordinated through me. I am often the surrogate who receives these things on Charlie’s behalf. But these are not things I do. These are things that people have taken it upon themselves to do. These are things you people have made happen. These are things you have done.

And people keep asking what else they can do. What else they can help with. How else they can make a difference. So I keep finding ways to facilitate people helping. I keep finding ways to let people do something useful for our friend. And I keep finding that our expectations are exceeded.

Throughout all this, I have found the people who make up Charlie’s Army to be amazing, generous, and kind people. And we are so grateful for all you people have done. Your love, your gifts, your help, your smiles, your hugs. We deeply appreciate all of it. You are wonderful. You are good. You are generous. You are exceptional. Thank you so very much.

You people.

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$71,120 of $110,984 goal

Raised by 338 people in 29 months
No Longer Accepting Donations
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Created December 3, 2016
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