A campaign of community compassion
University instructor living with cerebral palsy receives outpouring of support after struck by car
BRANDON YOUNG THE CASKET brandon.young @saltwire.com
What goes around comes around — especially in a small community like Antigonish. In dayto-day life, simple moments and exchanges of kindness make a difference and don’t go unnoticed. Therefore, it’s no surprise the immense outpouring of support that has been offered to a local woman, known for her giving spirit, who is facing devastating circumstances. On the first Saturday of this month, 30-year-old Mary Mae Issac of Antigonish was leaving the playground at Columbus Field with her three young children. While in the crosswalk at the corner of Main Street and Elm Street, she was struck by a car that failed to stop. While her children were fortunately not struck, Issac, a wheelchair user living with cerebral palsy, sustained severe injuries — difficult news for those closest to her to receive. “We were shocked to hear the news …,” says Elizabeth Yeo, vice president, students at St. Francis Xavier University where Issac is a Mi’kmaq Language and Culture instructor. Having graduated in 2021 with a bachelor of arts from St. FX, Issac planned to use this year to work and spend time with her children with hopes of pursuing education studies next year. Well-known around the St. FX campus as an inspiring person, her colleagues and students have witnessed firsthand her perseverance, grit, and warmth — complete with a smile that can light up every room. “I had wonderful conversations with Mary whenever I ran into her on campus, in meal hall, between classes and at campus events,” says Yeo. “So many of us connected with Mary over her years at St. FX. She is a familiar person on campus, a strong and inspiring presence — so we have felt this deeply. Mary has worked very hard and has overcome many challenges.” Dr. Riley Olstead, associate professor in the St. FX department of sociology, is another faculty member who has had the pleasure of encountering Issac and knows her well. Providing details of Issac’s condition, she says she has suffered extensive and serious injuries from which even doctors are unsure she will heal. However, she isn’t going through it alone. “Mary’s family has been able to be with Mary in the hospital and is providing her with much-needed emotional support,” says Olstead. “The children, of course, are missing their mom and are saddened they had to start the new school year without her.” While it’s undoubtedly a difficult time filled with uncertainty, one thing is certain: Issac has a whole community behind her. Wasting no time, Yeo and Olstead organized a Gofundme campaign to support Issac and her family on her challenging road to recovery. The campaign was organized the day after the incident and surpassed its $10,000 goal within just a few days. While it’s no surprise, given Issac’s positive impact on all who know her, Yeo is amazed at the quick and generous response. “The financial support from the Gofundme page is going to be a significant help for Mary and her children,” says Yeo. “The outpouring of care and well-wishes will also be a positive support for her through this challenging time.” Noting Issac is facing an extended recovery, Yeo has nothing but well-wishes for her colleague, reassuring her that she has a wealth of support. “So many people care for you and are here for you,” says Yeo. “Your strength and spirit continue to inspire us.” While the Gofundme campaign surpassed its original goal, it will remain open until at least the end of October, allowing for even more love and support to flow in. “We will work with Mary to understand her situation and may increase the fundraising goal as we better understand Mary and her family’s needs,” says Yeo. Meanwhile, continuing to welcome donations via Gofundme or cheque, Yeo and Olstead are thankful for all the contributions that have come (and will surely continue to come) for a woman who has given so much to so many. “In experiencing the outpouring of support for Mary, it is evident that Mary is a special person who has touched so many people and that Antigonish and St. FX are special places where we take care of each other,” says Yeo.