For many, a storage unit is a place where excess items are left and often forgotten, but for Christine Koenig of Carle Place, it is a way to pay homage to her late son while helping families in need with important items.
Connor’s Kloset, officially registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in February, collects donated sports equipment and sought-after medical supplies to distribute to families in the area. Koenig, 55, started the nonprofit more than a year after her son, Connor Koenig, died from injuries sustained in a July 2019 accident. He fell off his ATV and sustained a traumatic brain injury. She recalled her son’s love of motorcycles, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, and said he rode them often around their neighborhood.
“He would go out every day, just around the block to ride them, but this one day he chose not to wear his helmet and he went down the block, and he did a wheelie and landed on his head,” Koenig said while fighting back tears. “Not one scratch on his body, and he was mentally conscious for a little over a year, and he survived a lot of tragic things.”
After the accident, her son fought two bouts of COVID-19, collapsed lungs, sepsis and other illnesses, Koenig said. He died in November 2020, just a few weeks after turning 21, Koenig said.
As she looked for a way to memorialize her son, Koenig said she thought of all the families in similar situations who could use her support.
“If he would’ve survived and we were able to bring him home, I know that a lot of the materials that we would’ve needed to help him survive at home, insurance would not have covered,” Koenig said. “So, I feel for the people that do get to bring their loved ones home and can’t get those things, so this is why I do what I do.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 223,000 traumatic brain injury-related hospitalizations in 2019 and more than 64,000 related deaths in 2020. The lifetime economic cost of those recovering from traumatic brain injuries — including direct and indirect medical costs — was estimated to be about $76.5 billion in 2010, according to the CDC.
The 10x10-foot storage unit Koenig uses has five steel utility shelving units that hold donations ranging from adult diapers, baby wipes and tracheostomy care kits to hockey sticks, helmets and a variety of cleats with blue sticky notes to differentiate the sizes. Koenig said Connor loved sports as a child and played baseball, football and soccer.
Most of the donations come from her followers on social media and are distributed via Facebook and Instagram, Koenig said.
After the accident, Koenig said she sought support from The Social Brain, a Selden-based nonprofit whose mission is to enhance the brain-injury community through recreation, socialization and networking opportunities. She began volunteering with the organization, which has its own “medical care closet” based out of Brookhaven Town’s Parks and Recreation Administration Building in Centereach. Though she continues to collaborate with The Social Brain, since that organization focuses on Suffolk, Koenig branched out to create Connor’s Kloset and serve those in Nassau County.
“As a parent of a [traumatic brain injury] accident participant, we wish Connor was here to be with us for all these activities and to see how far we’ve grown and how far his mom’s organization has grown,” said Ira Dunne, president of The Social Brain.
On Oct. 6, about two weeks before what would have been Connor Koenig’s 23rd birthday, the nonprofit will hold its first fundraiser at Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall in Wantagh. For more information on the event or the organization, visit the Connor’s Kloset Facebook page.