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The Joseph Groh Foundation | Grant Recipient | Joe Brunner

June 3, 2024

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Job Brunner with his wife Kozi, daughter Evie and son Rhett

Joe worked as a finish carpenter for Steen Construction out of Osseo, Wisconsin for 15 years leading up to his accident. Steen is an area homebuilder, and in the past year Joe had transitioned to a project manager position. Joe enjoyed riding dirt bikes on the many trails in the Clark County Forest. He had ridden these trails since his youth, and he knew them well. One early hot Friday last summer Joe decided to go for a ride even though he couldn’t get any of his friends to accompany him and he did not like riding alone. He had not been out all year however, so he decided to go anyway. He was about halfway through his favorite trail when it came to a spot that had been clear-cut over the winter. It looked different, and just then he saw the sign for a 90° corner to the left by a small bump in the trail. He braked as hard as he could and started turning, but then saw the front tire of his dirt bike starting to slide and go off the edge of the trail. The result was a hard fall with Joe landing on his stomach.

The injuries Joe suffered from this accident included a T4 Spinal Cord Injury with many broken fingers & ribs along with a punctured lung.

Joe remembers not being able to move his legs but thinking it couldn’t be anything serious. Certainly, being paralyzed never seemed like a possibility. When a group of four wheelers went by without stopping, he wondered how far off the trail he had fallen. He worked with difficulty to retrieve the phone from his backpack and was worried when he saw only one bar. He called 911 but the call dropped right away. Fortunately, they called back and dispatched police and medical help. By the time the police arrived he still felt no pain, but that changed in a big way once they loaded him on a stretcher. He was Care Flighted to Mansfield where he had surgery, then transferred to Eau Claire where he began physical therapy. “I know I thought before my accident that it would be tough to live with paralysis, but you have no idea until you are actually living it,” Joe said. About one month after his accident, he transferred to a rehab hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska where Joe says, “the real rehab started.” Joe remained there for the next three months before he was able to go home and start outpatient rehab.

Joe's wife, Kozi, was able to take a leave of absence from her position as a critical care nurse for Mayo Clinic in Eau Claire. They had a lot of other help from family members with the kids and the house. They decided the biggest item they would need help with after returning home was to take up the carpet in the master bedroom and replace it with hard surface flooring. Simultaneously, they would also need to remodel the bath for disability access. The biggest problem, however, lie with the fact that the master bed and bath were on the second floor. That means they would need a stair lift to get up to the second floor. Looking for options for financial assistance, Kozi's research lead her to discover the the Joseph Groh Foundation. This organization provides dedicated support to individuals in the contracting industry who have been impacted by life-altering disabilities. While Kozi petitioned the foundation for assistance, Joe’s employer worked with the couple to make modifications in the bath so that he could access it.

Thanks to the generosity of the Foundation's supporters, the Foundation was able to fund the flooring and chair lift, and Joe's request was granted.

Following the installation of these items, Joe sent a note to the foundation and its founder that read, “Normally, I would say you don’t know how much this means to us. Only I know your situation and I know you do – thank you very much from both of us!”

Daikin proudly supports the Joseph Groh Foundation. Joe's story is an example of the positive impact made possible through the generous donations of the Foundation's sponsors. Join us in lighting the way for others and become a Joseph Groh Foundation Luminary today.

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