Community members, family and friends gathered in Plainview on Saturday for a fundraiser for Rebecca Koltun, 21, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a skiing accident. Credit: Danielle Silverman; Photo Credit: Audrey Koltun; Jeremy Kurtzman

Rebecca Aleck Koltun, a Plainview native, is "a fighter," family said.

The 21-year-old premed student was set to get a BA in Spanish from Binghamton University this spring. She had interviews for medical schools lined up for the coming weeks, said Audrey Aleck Koltun, her mother.

But all that is on hold because Rebecca is paralyzed from her neck down and faces rigorous rehabilitation at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston, her family said.

On March 13, Rebecca had a life-threatening ski accident at Stratton Mountain in Vermont that severely injured her spinal cord, her family said in phone interviews. She was found unconscious in the woods on the mountain, they said, and had to be airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire.

The fractures were so severe that she couldn't breathe on her own and has been on a ventilator, her family said. She had to undergo surgery and get medically stable enough to be transferred to the top-notch rehab center, where her mother and father, Scott Koltun, have been at her side since Thursday.

Community members have been helping the family in various ways since the accident. Family Bagels-Plainview on Manetto Hill Road held a fundraiser on Saturday to collect donations aimed to help the family with medical and long-term care costs. Another fundraiser is set for April 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"The generosity from friends and strangers alike has been unbelievable and we’re deeply grateful and humbled by it all," her father said.

Rebecca Aleck Koltun, 21, a Plainview native, was in a...

Rebecca Aleck Koltun, 21, a Plainview native, was in a ski accident in Vermont on March 13 that left her a quadriplegic, family said. Credit: Audrey Koltun

Rebecca is quadriplegic, her mother said, meaning she has paralysis from her neck down including her arms and legs. "We're still in shock," she said.

Since she still needs the ventilator to help her breathe, Rebecca — a "chatterbox" with "lots of energy," according to her mom — has been unable to speak. Instead, she’s been mouthing her words to her family and friends over video calls, and they’ve become experts at reading her lips, they said.

"Rebecca is a fighter," her father said on Friday. "Rebecca is tough, and she’s a miracle."

The Koltun family have been Plainview residents for more than 25 years. Rebecca and her older brother, Erik Koltun, graduated from elementary, middle and high schools in the Plainview-Old Bethpage public school system.

"Rebecca is the life of the party and lights up every room she walks into," said Erik, 23.

As word spread of Rebecca's injuries, friends and community members organized fundraisers for her.

Family Bagels of Plainview organized a community fundraiser on Saturday...

Family Bagels of Plainview organized a community fundraiser on Saturday to help pay rehab costs for Rebecca Aleck Koltun. Credit: Danielle Silverman

A campaign on Help Hope Live had raised nearly $430,000 since March 24, with a $750,000 goal.

Friends are selling $5 bracelets with the words "Rally for Rebecca" printed on them, and the funds will go directly to the family, friends said.

"Rebecca is the one person I call whenever something good or bad happens to me," said longtime friend Lauren Fern, 22, of Syosset. "All I want her to be able to do is pick up the phone and call me."

Another friend, Jessica Scheibel, 21, of Plainview, said she was "speechless" over the outpouring of support. "We’re in the middle of pandemic, but it gives me hope that when people are in need, friends, communities and even strangers will come through with help," Scheibel said.

To donate to the Help Hope Live campaign, visit helphopelive.org/campaign/18533.

To donate to the bracelet fundraiser, email laurenfern3@gmail.com.

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