As of February 4, 2019 we have reached our goal and are no longer accepting donations to Wheels for John Paul. Many thanks to all those who helped make our lives, and John Paul's life much easier. You will be in our prayers from here on out.
Today, January 24, 2019 we purchased a 2014 wheelchair accessible van for John Paul. Many thanks to all those who donated and prayed for this campaign. We have decided to keep the campaign open for another month because several people have told us they still wish to donate, and we would very much like to purchase an extended warranty for the van. The cost of the warranty depends on the coverage, all the way from $2677 for 48 months / 24,000 miles up to $4448 for 60 months / 100,000 miles. The warranty includes literally everything and has a low $100 deductible. We have added several thousand dollars to our goal to include the warranty. Which warranty we purchase will depend on the donations we receive. Thank you to all who donated, will donate, or prayed for this cause!
Here is a picture of the van:
John Paul McKenzie is a survivor. Permanently disabled from birth, John Paul cannot walk due to cerebral palsy. He has the dual diagnosis of Down Syndrome and severe autism with aphasia (the inability to speak). He also has hydrocephalus (managed with a shunt), and an ileostomy (like a colostomy, except on his small intestine). In addition, John Paul is blind and partially deaf, and is fed and receives his medicines through a g-tube. Despite these challenges, at age twenty-two John Paul is happy, calm and engaged in life. We treasure the gift he is.
John Paul's life at home is divided between bed, a rocking chair and his wheelchair. He requires twelve hours of nursing care everyday to keep him clean, healthy and properly nourished. You would think that this would severely depress him but John Paul is the opposite. He adores music and insists on listening during all his waking hours. Despite his limitations he reaches out to those around him as best he can, listening for familiar treads, sounds and voices, and often calling out a garbled version of their owner's name. Your response often elicits joyful chuckles from him and sometimes exclamations. Even when resting he is apt to laugh quietly to himself. What we, his parents, would not give to know what is going through his mind at times like this!
John Paul was actually not expected to live for more than a few days by the medical staff when he was born eight weeks prematurely. Buoyed by the prayers of hundreds of well-wishers and expert neonatal care he proved them wrong, however, and at 22 years old he is thriving today.
John Paul's numerous medical needs have always required specialized transportation, not only for scheduled visits but also for unexpected trips to the emergency room and simple recreation. Our 1995 wheelchair-accessible van has gotten us this far, and was adequate when he was a small child, but now it is almost impossible to maneuver his much larger wheelchair in its cramped spaces, and frequent repair costs have become a real problem for us.
For these reasons we have our hearts set on a new wheelchair-accessible van for John Paul. Because he cannot drive and must be driven by another person, we realize that a rear entry van would be the perfect solution. There would be no need for a lift, or to find a handicapped parking space, and no need to struggle to turn his wheelchair ninety degrees after getting him in the van. We would just roll him up the ramp and lock him into position.
We entered John Paul in a contest two years ago to try to win a new wheelchair-accessible van for him. To participate in the contest we recruited hundreds of people who were willing to vote for John Paul daily for several weeks. We did very well, coming in among the top ten percent of contestants, but were not among the three finalists.
Many people who voted for John Paul encouraged us to set up a gofundme campaign to buy him a new van. Well, after sitting out for awhile to catch our breath, that is exactly what we have decided to do. We anticipate that buying a new rear-entry wheelchair-accessible van for John Paul will cost $70,000, including sales tax, license, title and fees. We would love to have a new van so that it will be with us as long as possible, and we won't have to face this challenge again for a long time, but if we raise less than the full amount we will purchase a used wheelchair-accessible, rear-entry van for John Paul.
(January 19,2019 note: This is indeed what has happened. We found a beautiful 2014 wheelchair accessible van for $28,410 and, thanks to private donations are close to having the money to buy it. We need $5044 by Thursday, January 24, 2019, which is the last date which the dealer could guarantee us exclusive access. See our latest update for more details)
We think John Paul deserves the best, but we would think that, wouldn't we? We cherish this sweet boy, now a man, who has taught us great lessons in love and patience. John Paul has hundreds of fans all over our community – has had them since his very first day of life. Many of them tell us they still pray for him every day.
We are offering this prayer, this opportunity, to them and anyone else who is moved to assist John Paul to get the mobility he needs to help maintain health, recreation and sunshine in his life. Thank you for reading this and thank you for any help you can send our way!
- Chris and Mary Rose DeCock
- Archdiocese of St. Louis
Saint Louis, MO