Helena family starts fundraiser to pay for son’s wheelchair accessible van

Published 1:12 pm Monday, October 16, 2023

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

HELENA – A local family in Helena is looking to their community for neighborly love and help as they raise money for the purchase of a wheelchair accessible van for their son, Oliver Garcia.

In doing so, they have partnered with the nonprofit Help Hope Live in the coordination of a fundraiser to help raise the necessary funds that will allow the Garcia family to afford what most would consider an absolute necessity.

“In 2016, our son, Oliver, was born at only 23-weeks gestation,” said Tamaryn Garcia, Oliver’s mother. “In his first months of life, he encountered a number of prematurity related illnesses that are often fatal. However, he was born a fighter and is still a fighter, working hard for everything he does. You see, as a result of his illnesses, he sustained a PVL brain injury that resulted in extreme spastic and dystonic quadriplegic cerebral palsy.”

Oliver, who is unable to speak verbally and has a very limited usage of his hands, has not allowed his condition to slow him down. Currently in second grade, he has displayed a mastery in his academic material. He is unimpeded in his ability to read, solve multi-step math problems and is able to express his happiness at achieving those goals.

“He has a style and smile that make him loved by all who meet him,” Tamaryn said. “He was awarded ‘Mr. Congeniality’ of his class and is truly a friend to all. He loves to dress nicely and once communicated that he likes the compliments people give him on his clothes and that when he looks good, he feels good.”

Despite Oliver’s successes, the Garcia’s have learned the unfortunate fact that, in the vast majority of cases, medical insurance will not cover home conversions or medically accessible vehicles. In current systems, such things are shockingly not considered medical necessities.

“I have met with members of the Alabama Changemakers who go to Montgomery to meet with lawmakers about such needs, and confirmed that there is no type of assistance for a child getting a vehicle unless the child is old enough to have a job,” Tamaryn said. “Then it would be considered occupational and it would be covered by some programs we have in the state.”

In their search for a vehicle that can accommodate their son, the Garcia’s have found that even with great credit, payments for a vehicle, like the one they will require, will carry monthly payments that exceed the cost of their monthly mortgage.

“It essentially boils down to a full-size wheelchair accessible van like we need being in the range of $80,000 to $100,000 for a used vehicle,” Tamaryn said. “With current interest rates, even with excellent credit, that would put our car payment around $1,400 per month. That is the cost of a mortgage. That is completely unreasonable for a family who is already trying to survive doing extra things not covered by insurance for a child with physical limitations.”

Unlike normal wheelchairs, Oliver’s condition calls for the use of a tilt-in-space wheelchair, which sits him further from the ground than an average chair and allows him to recline. The design of this chair leads to extensive modifications being required on any vehicle that might attempt to transport him.

Because of this, the lack of a specifically modeled vehicle means that Oliver must undergo an extensive and often abrasive process of being transferred to and from a five-point harness car seat each time he goes somewhere. While a deeply uncomfortable process for all involved, it is a solution that has sufficed so far.

However, it is an unfortunate reality that the growth of a child waits for no one, and as Oliver approaches the size limitations on his current chair, the Garcia’s are reminded of the encroaching reality that their current accommodations will need to change as Oliver grows. There will soon come a time when they may be unable to manually lift their son into the vehicle as they do now.

“Once he outgrows it, he would be unable to sit in a booster seat with a lap belt due to the fact that he has no trunk control,” Tamaryn said. “It is also quite taxing for us, his parents, to transfer him in and out of a car seat, especially on days when there are multiple errands to run and we are getting in and out of the vehicle frequently. At the moment, his wheelchair must be lifted manually into the back of the van.”

This is not a reality that the Garcia’s have freshly become accustomed to either, as they have searched for solutions and assistance for several years. It is their hope, that with the aid of Help Hope Live, that their current fundraiser will aid in their mission to procure and supply Oliver with the utilities he will need in life.

Help Hope Live also enables all donations made to this cause to be tax deductible, and ensures that the money raised will be used toward the subject of the donation. It is for those reasons that Oliver, and the Garcia family, have chosen to work with them and entrust their stewardship.

“We are so thankful for our amazing little fighter, and we appreciate any donations that you might feel led to give after reading our story,” Tamaryn said. “We thank God for all that he does, and know that he provides in all circumstances.”

Those who wish to support Oliver, and the Garcia family, are encouraged to visit their fundraising page at Helphopelive.org/campaign/22296.

Progress and announcements can also be found on the family’s Facebook group page at Facebook.com/groups/835710041540958/?ref=share%3C%2Fp%3E.