Christine Guerra-Candelaria has been lifting her son in and out of the car every single day for the past 14 years. This Albuquerque, New Mexico mom has been working with her son’s disability, lifting her child from his wheelchair into the car, and vice versa, because their vehicle does not come equipped to handle a wheelchair. Such vehicle are expensive and can be difficult to come by.
But the teenage boy now weighs around 70 pounds, and the heavy lifting has taken its toll on the single mom, who has had no one to help her with this difficult task.
“My biggest challenge is taking him from his wheelchair or stroller, lifting him up, and putting him in the vehicle in his special car seat,” Christine said.
Now thanks to Stephen Paternoster, the owner of Scalo, a local Italian restaurant, Christine won’t have to do that anymore. He has donated a special handicap van to the family. With the vehicle’s specialized equipment, young Matthew, who also goes by the nickname of Superman, can be lifted via platform into the van in a manner that will keep him safely in place. The van will also help Matthew be safely strapped in.
Paternoster explained why he donated the van: “You give sometimes because it makes you feel good. In this case, it has made me feel good.”
Christine thanked the business owner from the bottom of her heart.
“I have a new friend,” said Stephen.
Another mother, Peggy Lovgren of Stromsburg, Nebraska, knows Christine’s struggle all too well. Peggy has 2 sons with muscular dystrophy, neither of whom have control over the motor functions of their legs. Their family did not have a suitable vehicle with the room to transfer both boys to and from their wheelchairs either.
They fortunately received a donated handicap van as well, from the Nebraska Masonic Home in Plattsmouth.
Liz Morales, The Columbus Telegram
“My family is so humbled and grateful for the donation,” Lovgren said. “This is just so exciting and a little too surreal. It’s in such good shape and the miles are low, despite the age of the van.”
The individuals and organizations who helped these families will hopefully inspire more people to give families with disabled children the support they need.