BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — When Natalie Barnhard suffered a work-related injury that left her a quadriplegic, her misery was by no means over.
Natalie and her family have come a long way — her hard work even being recognized in the halls of Congress.
Natalie Barnhard was a 24-year-old physical therapy assistant when her world came crashing down, in the form of a 600-pound exercise machine that fell on her, leaving her unable to use her arms and legs.
“This time last year I was in a neck collar, not moving my arms, could not sit up on my own. I could not even talk,” Barnhard told News 4 in 2015.
Then a contractor hired to retrofit her home botched the job so miserably, her family Called 4 Action.
But Natalie was not about to let those injuries and a sub-par contractor hold her back. Her new job, recovering from those catastrophic injuries. A difficult task in Western New York.
“I had to leave Buffalo and go down to Atlanta, Georgia where I ended up staying for almost 10 years because I wanted to focus on my recovery.”
Once Natalie returned, she used proceeds from a substantial out-of-court settlement to set up what is now the Motion Project Foundation to help others who have suffered life-altering injuries.
“It was a dream of mine since shortly after my own injury, just knowing how difficult it was to get the recovery that you need, the resources that you need.”
Natalie’s efforts through annual fundraisers like this at Canalside in 2015, the Motion Project has set up a 6,200 square foot rehab and recovery center in Cheektowaga, equipped with state-of-the-art exercise machines you won’t find anywhere else in Western New York.
For her untiring efforts, the United Spinal Association bestowed its “Finn Bullers Advocate of the Year Award” on Natalie at their annual “Roll on Capitol Hill” gala, virtual gala, in Washington.
Natalie’s family has been with her on her journey all the way.
Mary Lynn Bernhard, Natalie’s mom told us, “You can give up, no one would blame you, it is a difficult road, or you could trust God and go down the path and make your life as best you can make it.”
“I am just a girl from Buffalo who got hurt and wanted to really make a difference in people’s lives,” added Natalie.
The Motion Project has extended grants to Western New Yorkers with injuries and developmental disabilities so they can go to other cities for rehab and recovery. But now with this new state-of-the-art facility in Cheektowaga — Natalie says injured folks can stay close to home.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.