MIDDLEBURY — The outreach for Zion Carlstrom and her family continues to grow a month after the 17-year-old was hit by a car while riding her bike.
There has been an outpouring of support around the community and through social media, both from people who knew Carlstrom and from others who had never met her before but have heard about her accident.
Carlstrom, from Middlebury, was riding her bicycle on C.R. 35 near U.S. 20 around 10:19 p.m. on July 10, when a vehicle struck her. Pasquale Rulli, 26, came forward to police a day after the accident happened. The Elkhart County Sheriff's Department is still investigating the case.
Carlstrom was airlifted to Memorial Hospital in South Bend, where she stayed in the Intensive Care Unit. On Wednesday she was taken to the Hook Rehabilitation Center in Indianapolis, where she will stay for the next six to 10 weeks, said Ashley Hooley, a friend of the Carlstrom family.
Carlstrom received severe injuries to her head, and part of her rehabilitation will include speech and physical therapies.
Since the accident, Hooley said friends and family have come up with ways to raise money for Carlstrom's treatment and raise awareness to the community about the Carlstroms' story.
Hooley created a Facebook page called “We love you Zion,” in which she writes updates on Carlstrom. Most of the updates come from Zion Carlstrom's father, Blair Carlstrom. The page has more than 1,300 likes, with people asking about the family and sending words of encouragement on a daily basis.
“There is a big concern from her friends,” Hooley said. “People were always visiting her at the hospital.”
Hooley said she thought about creating a Facebook page because she thought about Zion Carlstrom's personality.
“It came to me that she would have done something like that for me,” she said. “Zion has always been there for me, so I wanted to give back some way.”
Other friends are raising money by selling items with messages of support towards the Carlstroms.
Bethanie Riley, another friend of Zion and the Carlstroms, has been making decals that say “Pray for Zion” and selling them to raise money for her treatment.
Riley said a friend of hers, Autumn Elliot, came up with the design and both have been selling them during their time off. In just a few weeks, they were able to raise about $800. She also received 13 orders for more decals in about three hours.
“We have a very caring community, and actually we are not the only group that's raising money, so we've all come together and are all giving back to the Carlstroms in our own different ways.”
Riley said other groups are just taking donations, while others are selling shirts or bracelets. Riley also talked with local businesses about having jars on the counters accepting donations. There are jars at Monteith Tire in Goshen and Middlebury, and also at Mancino's in Middlebury.
Riley, as many others in the community was “shocked. We live in a small community and to think that someone would hit someone and take off was perhaps the most shocking thing about it.”
Riley said one of the concerns among Zion Carlstrom's friends is that she will act differently from how she used to be, as she recovers from head injuries.
“Zion was a very bubbly, caring person and we are wondering if we'll get the same person, or someone else at this point.”
Zion Carlstrom's family has been overwhelmed by the response from the community, and have talked with Riley about it. Tracy Carlstrom, Zion Carlstrom's mother, expressed her family's gratitude toward the community through the following statement:
“We feel honored to have the community reach out with such loving arms to embrace us in our heartaches and joys.”