Ask any of Micheal Munson's friends to describe the Cupertino High School sophomore and the word "smile" will figure somewhere in their answer.
"He is just the friendliest person I know," says Micheal's best friend and classmate, Ishan Sharma. It is the reason why, when Micheal's ever-present smile disappeared earlier this year, Ishan suspected something was wrong.
He was right.
This past February, while walking the family dog, Micheal's father, Martin, tumbled off a path and down the bank of Saratoga Creek. Martin's back hit a rock on the way down. The 51-year-old says he knew instantly he was paralyzed.
Micheal was devastated by the notion that his active, outdoor-loving father would never walk again. "Right when my dad got injured," Micheal says, "I just acted different. Life was more depressing."
Micheal tried to keep the news of his father's injury a secret from his friends at school, but after two weeks, Ishan suspected something had changed. "I went to him and turned him around and I saw tears in his eyes," Ishan says. "I knew something was really wrong."
Ishan wanted to help Micheal, but didn't know how. It wasn't until he heard about the financial hole the accident had left the family in, did Ishan figure out what he wanted to do.
"Micheal came to me and said 'Yeah, we got the medical bills.'" Ishan says, "and the wheelchair costs $25,000. I was like, wow."
Ishan immediately set to work raising the money to buy the wheelchair for Micheal's dad. He formed the M&M Project and proceeded to organize friends, family and community members to help fund-raise.
A dinner was held and a fund-raising website was set up. Ishan was determined not to stop until they had reached their goal. And they did. When the time came to present Micheal and his family with a check during the high school's traditional Hall of Fame rally , the group had raised more than $30,000.
"He's been a really good friend to me," Ishan says, "and I wanted to reciprocate."
"He is someone I can't express more gratitude toward," Micheal says of his friend. "It's a relationship I can't really explain. It's amazing."
A wheelchair was delivered to the Munson house this past Monday. Martin will use this one until a custom-fitted chair is finished later this summer.
Martin immediately took the chair out for a spin. "I haven't been out of my backyard since the accident," Martin says. "This is big for me. It's a life-changer."
As he raced down the block, a smiling Micheal could be heard yelling for his father to slow down.