Charlton Family Handicap Accessible Van

My friend Steve is desperately in need of a handicap accessible van. Allow me, on his behalf, to tell you his story.

Steve who resides in the tiny rural town of Heath, Massachusetts is a single father of 4 children, two of which are handicapped. Although he is not one to draw attention to himself, he is also handicapped due to a childhood bike accident when he was 8 yrs old. He not only lost 40% mobility of his left side, but he also tragically lost his 3 yr old brother David in the same accident.With the extent of Steve's disability, he should probably be in a wheelchair himself but refuses to allow his disability to conquer him.

His daughter and my God daughter Theresa, was born 16 years ago with Sturge-Weber syndrome, a neurological and vascular disease that causes calcification of the brain and port-wine stains on her face.Theresa was having 8-10 seizures a day and doctors decided the best chance she had at a normal life was to remove half of her brain. They thought the surgery a success when she awoke and pulled the oxygen mask off her face with the arm they thought would be immobile, but the surgery wasn’t able to stop the seizure that rendered her unable to eat, speak or walk on her own.

Theresa is in a wheelchair, eats through a feeding tube and is unable to speak clearly, but one look at her smile and you know she’s happy. Steve is unable to work, and even though he can’t move well, he lifts Theresa, weighing 85 pounds, in and out of a car a minimum of 4 times a day – to take her to school, doctor’s appointments, church or family outings. Steve is unable to buy even a used car, and Steve could really use a mobility van to avoid the pain of Theresa being lifted due to her severe scoliosis. The scoliosis will eventually lead to a 10 hour surgery to insert rods in her back to help alleviate her chronic pain. Several months ago Steve lost the one small car they had which was in disrepair and was left with borrowing a vehicle to keep his family going.
In March 2014 Steve's niece, seeing the need of their family, entered them into a contest through the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association to win a handicap accessible van. After learning of the online contest I reached out to as many people as I could to obtain votes for the family. Many wonderful people rallied around this family which resulted in them being placed as a semi-finalist in 13th place out of over 1400 entrants from the US and Canada. Although they did not win the van, the overwhelming support continued with many of the supporters reaching out to me personally wanting to somehow donate towards his cause. It was that outpouring that led me to further the campaign and find a way to reach the goal of getting what he and his family desperately needs. So you can better understand his story here are links to local news stories that were covered by ABC and NBC affiliates about the entry into the contest. 

More on the rest of the family. Stevie the oldest child, suffers with severe autism. He does not speak any words but through his infectious smile and hugs lets you know how happy he is to be with his family. Catherine and Maggie, two beautiful daughters, are high spirited and support their dad with the tasks of caring for two handicapped siblings.

The goal amount that I set may seem high. This amount was chosen with much thought and concern and reflects what would be needed to provide the need. After consulting multiple sources, I decided not to limit what we all can accomplish, banding together as a team to reach the goal of providing them with the transportation they need for their family. 

I want to thank you for listening to their story and hope that you can find it in your heart to help them by donating in any way you can remembering that many together with open hearts can accomplish much.

All donations are a gift to a friend and are not considered a charitable contribution so your donation would not be tax deductible.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ~Mother Teresa

With much love and appreciation,

Mary Beth O'Dea

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Mary Beth Muenkel O'Dea 
Rowe, MA
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