Imagine helping a Gibsonia dad and his daughter get a 2012 custom wheelchair-accessible vehicle valued at about $40,000—and all you have to do is vote online.
Gary Guerino is racking up votes in an online contest sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, a nonprofit trade association, in which the prizes are free wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
To enter, Guerino shared his "Local Hero" story about needing a new vehicle for himself and his 16-year-old disabled daughter, Miranda.
Then he asked people to vote for him. As of Thursday, he has more than 4,000 votes.
The trade association is sponsoring the contest during National Mobility Awareness Month in May to raise awareness. It will give away at least three vehicles to a caregiver, veteran or person with a disability who is dealing with mobility issues, according to its website.
"The purpose is to educate the public that people with disabilities constitute the second largest minority group in the United States," the NMEDA website states. "Over 18 million people in the U.S and Canada have mobility issues. Six million of those are veterans."
Here is the Guerinos' story, which is reprinted here with Gary's permission:
My name is Gary Guerino from Gibsonia PA. I’m writing this letter for myself, a 56-year-old disabled man, and my 16-year-old disabled daughter Miranda.
I was diagnosed in 1993 with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). Although confined to a wheelchair I was able to continued working until 2000 using an accessible van I purchased in 1996 with the aid of the Pittsburgh OVR (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation).
My symptoms progressed and I had to take permanent disability in 2002. I still use the van weekly to travel to and from doctors' and physical therapy appointments with a caregiver.
Miranda suffered a stroke in-utero prior to her birth in September of 1995. She is a very bright young lady, and although very limited physically and verbally (she cannot walk or communicate independently), she still attempts to participate in a wide range of activities.
She now only ambulates with aid from my wife, Melissa, but is currently being fitted for her own wheelchair. She is a sophomore student in Pine-Richland High Schools Special Education program. Other than school, she’s active in physical and occupational therapy, horseback riding therapy, and various after-school and summer camps.
That’s a short synopsis of our situations.
A critical thing needed at this time is a new accessible vehicle. As I stated earlier, I purchased a van in 1996, which makes it approximately 16 years old. The automatic electric door is broken (about the 10th time) and more than likely needs replaced. Also the electronic emergency brake is broken, as well as the van's kneel-down system (which greatly aids safe entry and exit.)
Currently when used, a caregiver and or my wife must manually lift and lower the approximately 100-pound wheelchair ramp. Over the last few years, maintenance and upkeep on the van cost about $1,000 per year. These costs are very difficult to handle on a fixed disability income. The IMS-converted van has served us well over the years but is rapidly reaching the end of its useful life.
This summer Miranda’s wheelchair may be approved, which will require double duty for an accessible vehicle; transporting Miranda to and from school, and both of us to and from weekly doctor and therapy appointments.
Thank you for considering us your local heroes and helping us keep on again our daily challenges.