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Disabled local residents vie for wheelchair accessible van

Posted by Christina Jedra  May 8, 2013 08:56 AM

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Robert Schriefer of Saugus tells his story.

People with disabilities and their caretakers across the United States have a chance to make their lives a bit easier this month. The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association is celebrating National Mobility Awareness Month by offering applicants a chance to win a wheelchair accessible vehicle worth about $40,000. At least three vehicles will be awarded. 

Entrants from northeastern Massachusetts are among the almost 1,300 people vying for the van:

Susan Portelance of Andover requires a wheelchair and home aid.

Sarah Elizabeth Carr of Beverly has a severe brain injury and relies on her mother for all transportation.

Barbie Willis of Everett lost her legs to a bacterial muscle-eating infection.

Jean Walsh of Haverhill suffers from a degenerative neuromuscular disease and her current vehicle is dysfunctional.

James Wilcox of Reading became a quadriplegic after complications during a routine surgery.

Dominick Pacheco of Salem suffers from anoxic brain injury, cerebral palsy, reflux, seizures, and vision problems among other ailments.

Robert Schriefer of Saugus needs a new van to replace one that is falling apart.

Mary Houghton of Somerville has spastic athetoid hemiplegic cerebral palsy and her van's wheelchair ramp is "unpredictable." 

Contest entrants had the option of posting a two minute video or a photo and up to 400 word story about the person in need, called a “local hero.” Anyone can vote at www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/local-heroes/ up to once per day for who they feel is most deserving of the prize. The voting period ends this Friday, May 10, at midnight.

Local heroes that receive a number of votes in the top 5 percent of all entrants will be reviewed by a judges’ panel. The judges will consider the application’s truthfulness, the entrant’s need for a wheelchair accessible vehicle, as well as how well the entering story reflects the positive spirit of National Mobility Awareness Month.

A potential winner will be informed at the end of the month and will appear on a national television show to receive their prize. 

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