A Project and Home for Nicole



Do you ever wish you were given a second chance when life seems unfair? How about a second chance at living a full life? For one severely handicapped local child whose ability to live at home is in increasing jeopardy, the chance at a healthy and comfortable life with her family is now within reach.

As a 12-year-old living with her parents and two brothers in Madison County, Nicole Sawyer has severe brain damage and suffers from cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, and acute respiratory problems. The combination of medical supplies and equipment necessary for her in-home care is rapidly exceeding the limits of her family’s small two-bedroom residence.

The Sawyer family wants to be able to keep her at home. According to a brochure about the situation, the family has pitched in and done all it can with their own limited resources, but building an addition on their own is well beyond what they have available.

This is where Project: Nicole’s Home comes in.

To help the Sawyers keep Nicole at home, a number of Colgate students from Habitat for Humanity and interns from the Center for Outreach Volunteerism and Education (COVE) are organizing a 5K Fun Run and Walk on Saturday, April 23 at 11:00 a.m. All proceeds will be used to create an adequate living environment for Nicole and allow her to continue living with her family.

Project: Nicole’s Home’s seeks to add the space necessary to house Nicole and all of her specialized equipment for her daily medical care and on-going physical therapy. This equipment includes a bed, feeding equipment, roll-in shower, special positioning equipment, track-lift and wheelchair, among other items. According to project leaders, promises have been secured for much of the labor and approximately one-third of the necessary funding.

“[This project] is unique because the Sawyers are such an amazing family,” Community Team Coordinator of the COVE Betsy Busche said. “Asking for this sort of help is very humbling for the family. The father, Roger, told me at one point everything they are doing is for Nicole and that she is the most important person in their lives.”

According to COVE intern senior Betsy Harbison, sophomore Alicia Suter has been instrumental in leading this project. COVE interns, seniors Amanda Morse and Chrissy Hart, have also been involved. Busche has helped coordinate the project. The leaders are aiming for 250 participants and hoping to raise $7,500.

“I am particularly excited about this project,” Harbison said. “I think it is a great way to give back to the community before I leave Hamilton next month. It is truly amazing to see so many great people workccing so hard towards a common goal.”

The other organizers agree that Project Nicole is unique as a joint effort of citizens throughout Madison County. As a Hamilton-sponsored event, this project has resonated with citizens in many local communities.

“One of our goals is to foster a relationship with surrounding colleges, including Cazenovia College and Morrisville College,” Harbison said. “We are also very excited to work on this project with the support of local community members! We hope that this may set a precedent for future fundraising efforts in which the entire community works together on a local cause.”

Morse agrees.

“This project started from the bottom-up,” she said. “People are getting involved because they care about and support the cause. We have a very active student body, so the Run presents a perfect opportunity to support this great project, get a little exercise and demonstrate some solidarity with the larger Madison community. It should be a really terrific event; we just need bodies and their money!”

Hart feels that Project Nicole is a natural way to live out one of the main goals of the COVE – to dispel the notion of the “Colgate Bubble” and draw attention to the community of which Colgate is a part.

“We hear references to the ‘Colgate Bubble’ all the time – and with good reason,” she said. “Nicole’s situation is urgent, and her family has been through so much [that] it’s obvious to anyone why Project Nicole is a worthwhile endeavor.”

According to Harbison, the suggested donation for the event is $25, but students are encouraged to ask for sponsors from family and friends. Sponsorship packets and registration forms are available at the COVE.

“There will be a prize for whoever raises the most money, and the first 200 registrants will receive t-shirts!” she said. “We have focused a lot on raising money for the tsunami relief effort this semester – another very important cause – but I think it is really important that we work on local causes as well. Participating in this fundraiser is a great way for Colgate students to give back to their community.”

Aside from the actual 5K Fun Run and Walk, there are two other efforts underway to assist the Sawyer family. A group of students in a grant-writing class, including Harbison, are working on writing a grant for Nicole’s family. Senior Andrew Lebov filmed her family and is sending a tape to Extreme Make-Over: Home Edition at ABC.

“While the Sawyers are as deserving as any of the families on Extreme Make-Over: Home Addition, we are still treating it as a long shot,” Lebov said. “By sending tapes to news programs, we are hoping to bring the Sawyers into the public eye. From filming with the Sawyers, I cannot imagine how anyone who was able to witness their living situation, compounded by Nicole’s medical complications, would not want to help.”

Please e-mail [email protected] if interested in participating in the Fun Run and Walk on April 23 or want to volunteer at it. Help is needed at the water stands, sign-in tables and directing traffic.