PEORIA — Lisa Parr and her son, Donovan, of Pekin won money to help them get a wheelchair accessible car. What are they going to do next?
“Eventually, we want to go to Disney World,” Lisa Parr’s boyfriend, Jonathan Kaps, said.
But first they are planning a road trip in their brand new, fully accessible Chrysler Pacifica Limited. They are going to San Antonio to take Donovan to Morgan’s Wonderland, the only fully-inclusive and ultra-accessible theme park in the country.
For the past few years, the Parrs drove around in a 2004 Chevy Venture.
They made it work for as long as they could, but things got tough. They struggled to make it out of the house because driving everywhere was such a pain.
The issue was that the van was no longer wheelchair accessible for 21-year-old Donovan. The van had no conversions made to it, and half of the equipment was no longer operational. Donovan would bump his head every time Lisa Parr and Kaps would try to load him in the van.
Kaps knew it was only a matter of time before he would have to start looking for a new car.
He researched for nearly four months, and somewhere along the way discovered Vantage Mobility International. He also discovered that VMI was running a Claim Your Space Sweepstake. The winner would receive $10,000 toward a VMI accessible van and $1,505, a year’s worth of gas money.
For the past 16 years, Kaps has considered Donovan a son of his, so he took a chance and entered their story in the sweepstakes and then continued his search. Soon after, they received a phone call announcing that they won.
“This van has changed our lives,” said Kaps. “We couldn’t take him places that we can now. He can go to the store with us or do whatever. ... Now we want to take him everywhere. It makes such a difference in a person’s life to have mobility.”
Gerry Davis, founder and owner of Personal Mobility, the Peoria dealership that partnered with VMI in the sweepstake, and his wife, LuAnn, could not agree more.
Their daughter, Charissa, has had mobility challenges since she was 15 years old. Knowing firsthand the struggles of finding the vehicle that is the best fit, Gerry Davis has made it his mission to educate families so that they can make their own informed decisions. For Davis, helping someone regain their independence is the most rewarding part of it all.
VMI senior manager of marketing Zachary Schurtleff feels that the accessibility features they provided for the van are part of a line of products that “genuinely change lives.”
“Our overall mission is to have a wheelchair accessible vehicle in the driveway of every wheelchair user. We understand the difficulty that our customers can have. ... We do programs like this to help make it more accessible for people.”
Personal Mobility and VMI consulted with the family to ensure the conversion would fit their specific needs and guided them through the transition.
“If I had to give them stars, I would give them five stars,” said Lisa Parr. “They were great.”
The family was pleased with VMI’s accessibility, which included two other options for getting in and out of the van in case the ramp ever fails.
“That’s what it was made for ... to be fit for Donovan,” said Parr. “He loves it, and that’s all that matters.”
Grace Barbic can be reached at (309) 686-3194 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @gracebarbic.