Chelsea special needs family gets keys to new car
By CASSANDRA MICKENS/Associate Editor
HOOVER — Susanne Napp couldn’t hold back the tears when Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis handed her the keys to a new Honda Odyssey minivan April 17.
It was just weeks ago that Susanne’s 3-year-old son, Bryce, was entered for the National Mobility Awareness Month Local Hero contest. The winner gets a custom wheelchair-accessible vehicle based on the number of votes received. At last check, Bryce had more than 26,000 votes.
Bryce was born with semilobar holoprosencephaly, characterized by an incomplete forebrain division and partial separation of the cerebral hemispheres. Bryce is wheelchair-bound, and Susanne and husband Michael struggled to unload Bryce’s heavy wheelchair and equipment in and out of the back of their 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. During trips to the doctor and the grocery store, Susanne had to wait for a kind stranger to help her unload the van.
An anonymous citizen caught wind of the Napps’ story, and bought the family their new $58,000 minivan from MobilityWorks. The citizen requested the Hoover Public Safety Foundation present the car to the family.
In addition to the minivan, the foundation presented a $2,300 check to Susanne and Michael, leaving the couple momentarily speechless as they stood outside the Hoover Public Safety Center during a brief ceremony.
“We are so grateful,” said Michael, a biology teacher and head boys basketball coach at Chelsea High School. “It’s difficult to put into words how grateful we are and what a life changing thing this can be. It’s a testament to how our Heavenly Father cares for us and takes care of His own.”
Said Susanne: “It’s amazing and life changing for our family. It’s humbling that someone thinks so much of you to write a nearly $60,000 check to make your life easier.”
Derzis, also a member of the Hoover Public Safety Foundation, said he and fellow board members did not hesitate to honor the anonymous citizen’s request. Derzis said the citizen was “a little concerned” about Bryce’s chances of winning a national contest.
“This is the biggest moment we’ve ever had and probably our proudest moment,” Derzis said.
The Napps also are parents to three other children, 4-year-old son Davis, 2-year-old daughter Mary Carolyn and 2-month-old son Cameron, all of whom were on hand for the presentation.
Together, the family toured their new minivan. With the push of a button, the door opened and a ramp lowered to the ground. Michael wheeled Bryce inside with ease. His siblings were close behind. No more loading and unloading.
“What do you think of our new car, Bryce?” Susanne asked.
The smile on Bryce’s face said it all.