Five years after the auto accident that changed her life on nearly every level, Stormy Cushing is looking for a way to pay back the community that made a difference for her. The Cushing family wants others to know the blessing of unconditional kindness and have established a scholarship fund at Marion Community Foundation.
“Stormy’s scholarship is the ultimate expression of what we are about at Marion Community Foundation — community members selflessly paying it forward to countless other community members in perpetuity,” said Dean Jacob, Marion Community Foundation’s president and CEO.
In 2009, Stormy was a typical high school girl. On an otherwise ordinary day, she was on her way to cheerleading practice when her car flipped after being struck by a motorcycle, leaving Stormy with a life changing brain injury.
Stormy spent weeks in a coma and months in various hospitals, making slow but deliberate progress. She had to relearn how to walk, talk, and many other aspects of life most people can take for granted. And, she is still on her recovery journey.
According to Stormy’s mother, Marsha, a flood of support came from all over the Marion community after the accident.
“We had people we didn’t even know helping in so many ways. We had church people and my husband’s co-workers helping us to renovate our garage into an apartment so Stormy could live at home. We had people anonymously leaving food on our porch to feed the workers and volunteers who babysat the workers’ children. We had cheerleaders from every school in Marion County pitching in on fund raisers,” Marsha said. “We needed help and it came from every direction. We are blessed. The Marion community is a blessing.”
According to Marsha, the goal is to build the scholarship fund’s principle to $10,000 by December so that awards can be made from it in Marion Community Foundation’s 2015 Scholarship Program. MCF’s 2014 scholarship program, which just wrapped up its 15th year, awarded $322,000 to area scholars in May.
The Stormy Ray Cushing Scholarship will make awards to students from any high school in Marion County. It does not have academic or financial need requirements.
“We want to help the kind of student that Stormy was,” said Marsha. “We aren’t limiting the awards to just the top students and we are not as interested in a student’s financial status as we are on how they look at life.”
The major focus of the scholarship selection will be based on an essay. Applicants will be asked to write an essay on an event that they witnessed or experienced that changed, in a significant way, their life or their perspective on something. Recipient selection will be handled impartially by Marion Community Foundation’s scholarship committee.
“Stormy was one of my students when I taught sixth grade,” said Jacob. “Her accident a few years later was so devastating to her, physically, and to her family, financially. Now, several years later, even though Stormy still significantly shows the effects from her debilitating injuries, you would never know it from her attitude.
“She is the most loving and positive person you would ever want to know. Her smile could light up the universe. Even though she still has needs, she wants to raise money to establish this fund for the benefit of other people she does not even know. That’s philanthropy at its best and that’s beautiful, just like Stormy.”
The Cushing family is organizing fund raising events, similar to what they did to raise money to cover Stormy’s extensive medical expenses, to increase the size of the new scholarship fund. The first such event is a benefit ride on June 14.
The Cushing Benefit Ride will start at the Wet Spot in Caledonia with registration at 9:30 a.m. Stormy herself will do a blessing of the motorcycles at 10:45 a.m. and the first bike will roll by 11 a.m. After the prescribed route, which includes five stops, the riders will reassemble at the Wet Spot at 5 p.m. for dinner, raffles, an auction and a 50/50 drawing. Participation is open to the public; fees are $15 for a single rider and $20 for double riders. Those without motorcycles are welcome, too. The dinner will include a picnic-style meal with hamburgers and deli salads and feature live musical entertainment.
“We are trying to make this a family event,” said Marsha. “The stops are not just bars, each has an alternative, such as an ice cream shop.”
The Cushing Benefit Ride has several sponsors, including General Mills and the Village of Caledonia.
A second fund raiser begins the day after the ride at the Marion Applebee’s restaurant. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of food sales from June 15-19 to the Cushing Fund at Marion Community Foundation for any customers who bring in a flyer from the Cushings. The flyers will be made available online via Stormy Cushing’s Facebook page.
According to Marsha, the family has big goals for the scholarship fund and is planning to make similar fund raising events an annual occurrence.
“We would like to grow the fund to the point where we can award multiple scholarships annually,” she said. “Our goal is to give one to a student at each of the five Marion County schools every year.”
The Cushings’ want to help others because they have received the help they’ve needed. “Stormy has never asked ‘why me?’ She is not bitter and believes that God saved her for a reason,” said Marsha, “She is positive and determined and that’s just the type of student we want this new scholarship at Marion Community Foundation to help.”
Information on the Cushing’s fund raising events and Marion Community Foundation in general is available by calling (740) 387-9704, online at marioncommunityfoundation,org, or by visiting the Foundation’s offices inside the Stengel True Museum at 504 S. State St. in Marion. Flyers for the Applebee’s fund raising event are available at MCF as well.