Regardless of circumstance, Michelle Barnhart has always lived her life with a positive mental attitude.
Barnhart, 28, of Rindge, was left paralyzed from the waist down after an ATV accident on April 23, 2013. Rather than letting the severity of her injury get the best of her, Barnhart will be using her experiences in the coming months to help others recover from similar injuries.
“I want to inspire people, especially in my age group,” said Barnhart. “I want to let people know that there are always ways to live positively. Even after an injury, you can still achieve your hopes and dreams.”
Barnhart was recently selected as one of 17 employees who work for the Deluxe Corporation, one of the largest check printing organizations in the United States, to receive 100 hours of paid volunteer time. Barnhart will use her time to volunteer with the Greater Boston Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
“Michelle’s passion for the cause — and her inspirational personal story — really shone through in her application materials, and we’re thrilled to support her as she spends time volunteering for the Greater Boston Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association,” said Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer for Deluxe, who said more than 5,000 employees applied for the paid time.
When Barnhart was a patient at Spaulding Rehab, she said the volunteers with the Greater Boston Chapter played an invaluable role in her recovery.
“My mind wasn’t in a pretty place at first, but the volunteers really helped me get back on my feet,” said Barnhart. “This is an issue that is very close to me, and I can’t wait to share my positivity with others.”
Barnhart doesn’t let paralysis rule her life.
She works a full-time job with Deluxe, is a mother, a wife, and is pursuing an online business degree. She enjoys riding ATVs and helping out with her son’s Cub Scout troop.
“I’m still a really outdoorsy person,” said Barnhart. “I’m looking at doing a 5K soon.”
Barnhart said volunteering with the Greater Boston Chapter wouldn’t be possible without the help from her employers.
In addition to selecting her as a recipient of its “100 Hours to Make a Difference” campaign, Deluxe also installed a handicapped accessible door at her office building after her injury.
“They really worked with me,” said Barnhart. “When I was done rehabbing, they had already transitioned me from manufacturing to the call center so that I could stay with the company.”
Barnhart hopes to continue volunteering with the Greater Boston Chapter after her paid time runs out. Barnhart also hopes to use her volunteering experience to start a program or support group in the Rindge area.
“There is so much support in Boston, which is great, but we don’t have much up here,” said Barnhart. “I would love to set up a more locally based support group for people in the area dealing with similar injuries.
By Nicholas Handy