Wheelchair Accessible Van for Mike

Mike Watson is a lifelong resident of Corning, NY.  Around 7 years old, Mike started riding motorcycles and go-karts, loving all things powered by a gas motor.  At the age of 13, Mike began racing motocross and over the years became well known and respected as an accomplished amateur rider.  On Mother’s Day, May 12, 1985, just over a month after his 18th birthday, Mike was racing at Hunt Motocross in Hunt, NY when he was involved in an accident where he crashed on a downhill ski jump.  Unfortunately, the caution flag was not waved within enough time to warn and slow the other riders down which resulted in another rider landing on and running Mike over.  Mike suffered fractures to his C-4, C-5 and C-6 vertebrae which left him paralyzed from the neck down from the resulting spinal cord injury.   

After the injury, Mike had seemingly insurmountable physical, mental and emotional obstacles ahead of him but he never let it slow him down and he never gave up, even graduating from Corning East High School in June 1985, receiving his high school diploma while still hospitalized at Strong Memorial in Rochester, NY.  After being released from Strong Memorial, Mike traveled all across the country, undergoing multiple surgeries and procedures over the months and years following his injuries in hopes of regaining as much mobility and independence as possible.  Mike has been treated at Craig Hospital, in Englewood, CO, the Miami Project, in Miami, FL, Allied Services in Scranton, PA and even underwent tendon transfer surgeries at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH which resulted in Mike being able to regain use of his arms.  Thanks in part to the advances in medical sciences and in Mike’s desire to survive, fight and rebuild his body; Mike was able to regain mobility and independence despite remaining paralyzed and needing to rely on a wheelchair. 

Once mobility and independence was achieved, Mike continued to grow as a person, attending Corning Community College where he eventually received an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration.  Mike worked for 4 years at Guthrie Centerway as a data entry clerk before becoming a Police Dispatcher for the Corning Police Department on October 31, 1994.  Mike has served his community through the Corning Police Department as a dispatcher for almost 22 years.  Mike has been able to work, enjoy a fulfilling personal life and be a contributing member to society in large part to his acquisition in 2004 of a 2004 Ford Econoline conversion van equipped with a wheelchair lift, hand controls and other modifications allowing him to enter and operate the vehicle safely and effectively.   Through New York State’s Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID), when taking into consideration Mike’s income at the time as well as medical bills and expenses, Mike was able to purchase his 2004 Ford Econoline conversion van for $21,000 and another $10,000 for it to be converted to being handicap accessible.  Mike has taken tremendous care of his van, having it washed, waxed and detailed frequently.  Mike is proud to say that his van has been paid off for several years, having paid extra each month in order to pay it off early and having used only his earned income. 

After 12 years and over 105,000 miles, Mike’s 2004 Ford Econoline conversion van is no longer reliable, needing sometimes daily repairs to the components in order for Mike to safely get into and operate the vehicle so he can safely go to work and enjoy his normal daily activities.  In 2016, handicap accessible vans cost in the range of $50,000 for a used minivan with several thousand to tens of thousands of miles already on it.  A similarly equipped minivan that is not handicap accessible could be purchased in the $18,000-$25,000 range, but add in the expenses to equip that same minivan to be handicap accessible and the prices more than double.  Unfortunately, at this time, there are no special grants or programs to assist people like Mike who rely on handicap accessible vans equipped with wheelchair lifts, hand controls and other special equipment to be able to purchase them with any type of assistance to lower their costs.  The only “benefit” afforded people in Mike’s situation is extended financing in the 10 year range with higher than normal interest rates in the range of 5%+ which also adds to the overall expense through the years. 

Mike Watson is a wonderful person, hard worker and dedicated member of his community.  I would love to be able to raise enough money to outright buy Mike a brand new handicap accessible van, but I know that is probably an unlikely fundraising goal.  What I do think is achievable, is raising as much money as possible so that Mike can put the funds down towards the purchase of a new handicap accessible van so that he can qualify for a traditional auto loan with a more reasonable monthly payment, much like the rest of us are fortunate enough to have.  Mike has worked long and hard to get where he is today and I would love to see his community give something back.  Please consider donating.  Thank you.
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    • $25 
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  • Nancy Smith 
    • $100 
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  • Mary Miraglia 
    • $100 
    • 65 mos
  • Benny Jelliff 
    • $10 
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  • Sherry Mitzel 
    • $100 
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See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Jon McDivitt 
Corning, NY
Mike Watson 
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