New Ride for Keith!

Hello! Thank you for visiting my GoFundMe Campaign! My name is Keith Shirk! I am 37 years old and I live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

For those of you who have not met me, I have lived the last 18 years of my life in a wheelchair as a result of a diving accident in Ocean City, Maryland. At 19 years of age, having finished my freshman year of college at Syracuse, I went on a much-needed beach vacation with one of my long-time best friends. While at the beach I dove through a wave and struck my head on the sandy bottom. Having not lost consciousness, face down in the water and unable to move, I did not realize that I had shattered my C5 vertebrae, cracked my C6 and bruised my spinal cord. When my buddy rolled me faceup just-in-time to breathe I quickly realized how severe the accident was when I noticed my legs floating off to the side even though they felt stiff as a board.

Over the last 18 years I went from only moving my left shoulder to gaining a decent amount of functional ability in both of my arms. I’ve gone from using a power chair to a manual chair, which is not the easiest of tasks for a high-level quadriplegic. I went from 24/7 dependent care from others to a 95% independent life. I have put myself through technical school to be a Designer/Drafter, learned how to drive again from a wheelchair and have successfully been employed since 2006 at an engineering firm in York, Pennsylvania.

As for anybody, the decision to apply for higher education and the costs incurred as a result can be quite expensive! Add in getting your first job and becoming responsible for the first time in your life for "adult" things like your first vehicle as well as health insurance, 401(k), taxes (ugh!!!), etc. It can be daunting enough without a physical disability added on! My decision to work full-time, however, sacrificed all of my disability qualified assistance from the government for my above average medical expenses!! Over the last 10 years I have lived paycheck to paycheck to not only pay off this debt but other large expenses like a new wheelchair and a ceiling lift so my aides don’t have to manually lift me. All in all, hoping I could do it quick enough to save a decent amount of money for a down payment on a new vehicle and finally be able to afford a place of my own. .....Unfortunately, things have not gone my way!

As of this past Friday (8/23/19), the lift equipment installed in my van has completely failed despite my attempts to figure out a solution. I am basically stranded at home unless someone is able to manually operate my lift to get me in and out of the vehicle. Office of Vocational Rehab (OVR), a state organization that uses taxpayer money to help the disabled go back to school, get a job and retain employment has been my only saving grace for assistance since losing all benefits back in 2006. When I bought my van 10 years ago, OVR paid for all of my modifications (valued over $36,000) and have assisted me in any repairs of that equipment since. Unfortunately, but completely understandable, OVR does not want to pay to repair or replace any of the equipment in my van because “Bertha” is now at 200,000 miles and there have already been discussions between my caseworker and I of doing a completely new vehicle. So dropping $14,000 worth of new equipment into a van that old is not a wise decision! Quite frustrating when, modifications aside, I could still probably get a good 2-3 years out of my van which would have fit my financial planning perfectly! If this was the case, you probably would not be hearing from me.

To make things even more difficult, almost all handicap accessible vehicle modification companies have discontinued conversions of full-size vans. Minivans and SUVs, accessed via a ramp instead of a lift have taken over the accessible vehicle market. Due to my higher level of injury I am unable to push up these ramps Let alone be able to if I had things on my lap from shopping or whatever other reason. But even if I could get in the vehicle, my level of eyesight would not be higher than the dashboard because I drive from my manual chair. Most people with my level of injury are in power chairs that sit much higher or they have a little bit more function than me and can transfer into a swiveling power seat that raises up and down.
41391588_1566758207897090_r.jpegLuckily, there is one company that could very well be my solution! ATConversions, based out of North Carolina and Indiana, converts pickup trucks into accessible vehicles utilizing the lift concept just like my van, but in a far cooler way, in my opinion! Their conversion includes dropping the whole driver side of the vehicle 8", giving the truck a full body lift to regain back the ground clearance, and then adding a lift that swings out at a 45° angle. Thus, allowing me the opportunity to park in a standard handicap spot versus needing a van accessible spot with a larger area of the hashed lines. Oh, and the gullwing doors ability to shelter me from weather is amazing!

What do you think?!

“Time is of the essence” would be a complete understatement considering the predicament I am in! Not only does ATConversions modification take 4 to 6 weeks, the truck would have to return to a local mobility dealer in Pennsylvania to finish installing any auxiliary modifications I need including the lock-down device for my chair, hand controls for applying the gas/brakes and lastly controls for operating turn signals, horn, headlights etc. All of which could take an additional few weeks!

Pending OVR approval of this conversion and its price tag, which I hope to get in the next week or so, I will have the go ahead to purchase a new truck. Having the financial means to do so right away means getting the whole conversion finished ASAP but this will only be a reality for me if I can finance a brand-new $50,000 pickup truck per the rules set forth by the state of Pennsylvania. Because this has happened a few years earlier then I was hoping, I have absolutely no savings to put towards this truck and would need to raise as close to $25,000 as I can to supplement what is left after taking a new loan out to cover the rest of the cost.

Those of you closest to me know that I have a hard time asking for help. Even when my days are the roughest, I know there are others out there that are far worse off! This makes it extremely hard for me to ask for money but right now I am desperate for help for the sake of my job! If you have a means to help financially, I will be forever grateful but even if now is not a good time, I would be just as grateful for helping share my story with whomever you can!


Keith Shirk 

PS-If you feel you want to help even more, this campaign is set up so that you may do so as a means to reach out to your place of employment, club, organization, etc. let me know so we can get you up and running!
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    • $100 
    • 20 mos
  • Michael Vondran 
    • $100 
    • 21 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $200 
    • 24 mos
  • Phyllis Stine  
    • $500 
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Fundraising team (3)

Keith Shirk 
Raised $9,980 from 72 donations
Lancaster, PA
Sue Shirk 
Team member
Raised $205 from 3 donations
Leslie Hart 
Team member
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