Elizabeth is a loving 21-year-old who loves horses. She enjoys going to church and spending time with her family. Since she was born, Elizabeth has been defeating the odds and inspiring those around her. Thanks to Chive Charities, BraunAbility and Certified Mobility Consultant Dave and the rest of the Londonderry Ride-Away team, this family is now enjoying a new wheelchair accessible van.
Elizabeth was born with Holoprosencephaly, a rare disorder in which the forebrain fails to develop into two hemispheres. Elizabeth relies on her father Leo for her everyday care. Each day, Leo drives Elizabeth to school. He’s never missed a day, even when he suffered a heart attack earlier this year. Leo drove himself to the hospital after taking his daughter to school that day.
This past year, Elizabeth and Leo have faced many difficulties. Shirley, Elizabeth’s mother, passed away. She had suffered a stroke several years prior, and Leo was providing Shirley the same level of care he gives Elizabeth each day. Leo went through open heart surgery after his heart attack this year but he carried on with a smile on his face each day.
The family has been overcoming obstacles for many years. When Elizabeth was born, doctors said she would not live past the age of 6 months. But now, at the age of 21, she continues to grow and thrive.
Elizabeth regularly attends physical therapy and watches her peers horseback ride. She can’t ride anymore as she lies down on the horse and her body is too long now, but she loves to watch. Above all, Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her loved ones.
“During an average day, Elizabeth and I go to church and other places,” Leo said. “Elizabeth doesn’t do much but the things she does are astonishing. It is amazing what she can do that doctors said she would not be able to.”
One of the highlights of Elizabeth’s day is going to school, but transportation has been a challenge as she grows. Leo lifts Elizabeth in and out of his pickup truck, and keeps her wheelchair in the bed of the truck under a tarp he fashioned. It can be a frustrating routine but Leo does not complain. It is important for Elizabeth to go to school, church and stay active.
Elizabeth’s teachers at school noticed the transportation difficulties Leo deals with each day. Elizabeth’s teacher Kathy decided to apply for a grant through Chive Charities so Leo could have a wheelchair accessible van.
“Leo had an old van that was not a great fit for them,” Londonderry Certified Mobility Consultant Dave said. “Elizabeth would sometimes hit her head on the doorway because of a lack of clearance. The van was also unreliable, and he would sometimes need to use his pickup truck for transporting her and her wheelchair. He would lift her into the truck and use portable ramps to get her wheelchair into the back of the truck. After seeing this routine at Elizabeth’s school the staff decided to do something about it. They researched potential funding sources and came across Chive Charities.”
Elizabeth’s teachers learned right before Christmas that the grant was approved and Elizabeth would be receiving the van. Leo was shocked but excited when he heard the news.
“Chive Charities was wonderful to me,” Leo said. “This is the first time I have ever gotten help. I’m a very proud person and I would hate to ask for help. Our vehicle was getting old and we couldn’t afford another one. It was a blessing that it really happened.”
Dave was thrilled to work with Leo and Elizabeth, but also had high praise for Chive Charities.
“Chive was great to work with,” Dave said. “They are the only funding source I know of that funds both the van and the conversion. There aren’t enough organizations like them out there.”
Leo commended both Chive and Ride-Away.
“Dave was very helpful and a very nice gentleman,” Leo said. “I didn’t know that Ride-Away had vans for people with handicaps, so I was happy they could help. I would definitely recommend Ride-Away if you are looking for a handicapped van, especially if you are getting assistance from a charity. Ride-Away is the best place to go.”
Dave led the family through the process so they could pick a van that checked off all their must-haves.
“We looked at a few different vans but in one of the vans, Elizabeth couldn’t see out the window because the floor was too low,” Leo said. “Elizabeth likes looking out the windows so we wanted to make sure she could do that.”
Dave worked to make sure that the van was the ideal choice.
“It was decided that the Dodge Grand Caravan and Braun EV II were the best fit for them,” Dave said. “Leo could have asked for a van with more bells and whistles but he didn’t want Chive spending more money on him than necessary, hopefully leaving more money to assist another family.”
Leo has a hard time picking a single favorite thing about his new BraunAbility Dodge Grand Caravan.
“I love everything about it,” Leo said. “The door opens automatically and when I drive down the road it’s smooth with no creaks or noises.”
As for the future, Leo hopes to spend more time with Elizabeth thanks to their new freedom.
“I don’t have plans right now but I would like to take a vacation with Elizabeth,” Leo said. “We haven’t been on vacation in 5 or 6 years. Hopefully we will soon.”
Each day, Ride-Away helps families like Elizabeth and Leo regain their independence. Find out more about our side entry BraunAbility vans here.