A Selden Marine says he’s gained back his independence thanks to a generous gift from a local nonprofit.
In front of a small crowd Wednesday morning, the Ventura family was presented with a newly remodeled home, complete with wheelchair ramps and an elevator to make life a little easier for Lance Cpl. Billy Ventura, 25, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a hit-and-run motorcycle crash three years ago.
“You’ve given him back his freedom, his independence,” Billy’s mother, Cyndi Ventura, 57, said outside her newly renovated home to family, friends and volunteers. “You’ve empowered him by giving him the control to live life and to go on after everything that he’s been through and show him that there’s still life out there.”
The Venturas have endured a lot. In 2011, the Venturas’ oldest son, Jerome Ventura, died of complications from his PTSD medication while serving as a Marine at age 23.
Building Homes for Heroes, a Valley Stream-based nonprofit, worked with several local businesses to transform the Venturas’ two-story home over the course of 15 months.
The basement was converted to a wheelchair-friendly apartment for Billy. An elevator was installed, wheelchair ramps were added and a two-car garage was built. In total, the renovations cost about $400,000, according to Building Homes for Heroes founder and CEO Andrew Pujol.
A number of volunteers also pitched in. Danny Duffy, 51, took the train out from Woodside for weeks to spackle the exterior of the house, and even spent New Year’s Day working on renovations.
“This family deserves it for all they’ve lost and gone through,” Duffy said.
Margie Miller, 49, of East Islip said she can’t think of a family more deserving of a home makeover.
“In the face of their tragedy, they moved forward. We all have a choice. We can sit and wallow or we can take that pain and focus it into something good, and that’s what this family has done,” said Miller, a family friend of the Venturas. Miller said the family stood by her side after her son Keith, also a Marine, died last September.
While seated in the family’s new garage, which was painted with red stripes and a single gold star in remembrance of his older brother, Jerome, Billy Ventura was overcome with gratitude.
“Before I couldn’t even get into the house on my own. Now I have my mobility back,” he said. “Words can’t even explain how thankful I feel right now.”