We are happy to announce the addition of five new locations to our list of service centers with the addition of Carolina Mobility Sales, also known as Achieve Mobility and Savannah Mobility Sales. The new van showrooms are located in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, bringing the total number of consumer locations to 61 across 22 states. We will now be able to help individuals and businesses in the major metro areas of Tallahassee FL, Savannah GA, Charlotte NC, Columbia SC, and Greenville SC.
We want to welcome the Carolina Mobility staff to the MobilityWorks family and we look forward to serving many more people throughout the Southeast region of the country.
For clients of Carolina Mobility, we invite you and your family to stop by our local showroom as we transition the Achieve Mobility locations to MobilityWorks. Please feel free to contact us here if you have any questions or concerns about your vehicle, recent purchase or planned purchase. You can also contact us at 855-364-0121 to schedule a free needs analysis with a Certified Mobility Consultant.
MobilityWorks’ Beltsville location was proud to present wheelchair vans to John, a triple amputee and Purple Heart Recipient, and Andrew, a quadriplegic single father. The double wheelchair van presentation came together thanks to nonprofits Help our Military Heroes [HOMH] and the Semper Fi Fund, as well as Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist Tammy Phipps and a generous area veteran. John and Andrew received their keys to freedom with help from Certified Mobility Consultant Sherry and the rest of the Beltsville team.
Army Veteran John Works with Help Our Military Heroes
Army Master Sergeant John Masson received his second accessible vehicle thanks to Help Our Military Heroes and the Semper Fi Fund. In 2010 John stepped on an IED and lost an arm and both of his legs. His training allowed him to help his fellow Medical Sergeant treat the wounds, saving his life. John earned a Purple Heart for his heroism. John, a North Carolina resident, was planning to trade in his previous wheelchair van to help him acquire a newer one. Andrew, a local quadriplegic, planned to purchase John’s previous van.
Marine Veteran Tim Surprises Andrew
In 2005, Andrew Yelicie was the victim of a gunshot wound when he was 21 years old. Andrew worked hard in rehabilitation for several years, but he wanted to focus on becoming independent so he could raise his now 14-year-old daughter as a single father. Andrew attended George Mason University and recently graduated with a degree in Accounting. His wheelchair van had been in an accident several weeks before and caught on fire as he drove. Luckily, Andrew was able to get out, but he no longer had reliable transportation.
Marine Staff Sergeant Tim Brown, another triple amputee veteran who received assistance from Help our Military Heroes, read Andrew’s story and decided to help. Tim has had a successful recovery and is able to use prosthetics, so he now drives an SUV. He had a 2011 BraunAbility Toyota Sienna minivan that he no longer needed. After seeing Andrew’s story, Tim decided to pay it forward and give the young father his accessible van for free.
Andrew thought he was coming into the Beltsville location to see if John’s previous van would work. Instead, he was surprised when Tim said he would give Andrew his Toyota minivan for free.
John and Tim Get their Wheelchair Vans
Fox 5 DC joined MobilityWorks to witness the double wheelchair van presentation.
“Everyone is over the moon with their vans,” Certified Mobility Consultant Sherry said. “Andrew received his van, which needs a few small repairs, for free. The van donation will provide Andrew with the ability to look for a job. He just received his degree in accounting and will use the van to go on interviews. John travels often with his wife and kids, so he needed a newer van.”
Sherry was proud to help John and Andrew regain their independence.
“I would personally like to thank Tammy for allowing me to be part of such an awesome group of people,” Sherry said. “I’d also like to thank the employees of MobilityWorks who pitched in to make the presentation happen. Congratulations to Andrew and John! We will see you on the road.”
For decades, Edward has had a deep passion for dancing. He is a member of West Virginia University Swing Dance and he often joins his local Morgantown square and contra dance group. Edward is able to travel and stay dancing thanks to his BraunAbility Dodge Grand Caravan wheelchair van. Certified Mobility Consultant Clint and the rest of the Pittsburgh team helped Edward regain his independence so he could get out and dance.
Edward Starts to Wheelchair Dance
“I was born in 1970 with spinal-sacral agenesis, which means that the base of my spine did not form while I was growing in the womb,” Edward said. “I have always needed some kind of mobility device. First it was crutches and then in the mid-80s I got into wheelchair sports so I began using a wheelchair daily.”
Edward didn’t let his disability stop him from staying active and taking up wheelchair dancing.
“The first time I got the courage to ask a lady to dance was at a Valentine’s Dance sponsored by the Wright State University chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ, in 1994,” Edward said. “The lady was my friend Becky and the song we danced to was “Unchain” by the Christian rock band White Heart. In 1997 I got my first taste of square dancing when I got together with a bunch of people from an e-mail prayer list I was on, at a list member’s home in Youngstown, Ohio. We had the square dance in the attic. The following year, I joined Catholic Alumni Club of Pittsburgh which had square dances twice a year. I started going to those, and basically figured out for myself how to adapt the moves to my wheelchair, while dancing with able-bodied partners.”
“The instructors have been very helpful over the last two years, working with me to figure out ways to adapt swing dancing for my wheelchair,” Edward said.
As a longtime wheelchair dancer, Edward has some great advice for others looking to participate.
“The first word of encouragement I would give to any would-be wheelchair dance is: if you enjoy moving to the music and can keep time, you are already a dancer,” Edward said. “Beyond that I would check with local dance clubs to see if they have an instructor willing to teach you. The American DanceWheels Foundation based out of the Philadelphia area is an organization that can provide support and resources. I recently found out they offer lessons via Skype for those individuals who don’t have an ADF instructor nearby.”
Edward is very active in his local dancing community. To stay independent, he knew he needed a wheelchair accessible vehicle.
Edward Enjoys Mobility Independence
“I learned to drive with hand controls and got my first driver’s license shortly after my 17th birthday,” Edward said. “At first I drove my parents’ full size Dodge van with a wheelchair lift. In 1992, I bought my first car, a used Ford Tempo coupe, and had hand controls installed. My next three cars were also coupes. I had a pretty good procedure of disassembling my wheelchair and putting it in the back seat of my car. But as I got older, my mom noticed that it was getting more difficult for me to do that procedure. On Memorial Day weeks in 2013 and 2014, on trips to Memphis and Texas, I had the opportunity to rent wheelchair adapted minivans. I found these much easier to work with than a standard rental car. So I began to think seriously about purchasing an adapted minivan.”
Edward knew about MobilityWorks from previous research when he was looking for hand controls.
“When it came time for me to upgrade to an adapted van, MobilityWorks was the first place I visited to start the process.”
The vans Edward previously rented were Dodge Grand Caravans and he liked those. His uncle, who is now retired, worked for Chrysler his entire career.
“For those two reasons, I was pretty much dead set on getting a Grand Caravan,” Edward said.
“When Ed first visited to discuss buying a vehicle, he arrived in a 2007 Chevy Cobalt coupe equipped with hand controls,” Clint said. “For years since purchasing his car, he had been transferring from his manual chair which he was loading and unloading by hand. As he got older, he was having a little more difficulty managing the chair while maintaining his shoulder strength and integrity.”
“When I made my first visit in January 2015, Clint at the Pittsburgh office urged me to seek third-party funding, which I did through West Virginia Rehabilitation Services,” Edward said. “Once I went through all the evaluations and approvals from WVRS, Clint and I emailed frequently to make sure the process kept moving. It was almost nine months from my first visit in January when I picked up the van on the first Friday in October. My minivan is white and I am a fan of The Lord of the Rings. I nicknamed my van ‘Shadowfax’ after Gandalf’s white horse!”
Clint helped Edward choose the right van to fit Edward’s needs.
“Edward purchased a used low-mileage 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan equipped with a new BraunAbility Entervan conversion,” Clint said. “We added customizations that personalized it for him. This wheelchair van fits Edward’s needs because he has adequate body strength and range of motion in his arms to self-propel his manual chair up the ramp to enter the van. He then completes a transfer inside the van using a powered transfer seat in the driver position. This seat comes to him so he doesn’t have to try to get to the seat. He uses the hand controls we installed and off he goes.”
Edward’s van has allowed him to keep dancing and even travel for his passion.
“I have traveled to two weekend swing dance workshops since I got the van,” Edward said. “I was in State College, Pennsylvania in October and went to Pittsburgh in January. I plan to travel to the DC Lindy Exchange in Washington, D.C. in April for a full weekend of swing dancing.”
If Edward ever needs additional mobility support, he knows MobilityWorks will be there.
“It is always a great feeling to help restore someone’s independence,” Clint said. “I enjoyed working with Edward and established a great relationship with him.”
Melissa is a smart young woman who recently graduated from the STRIVE program where she learned life skills and how to be independent. The 22-year-old from Crystal Lake, Illinois, loves listening to music and helping others. She enjoys swimming and spending time with her family. But unlike other 22-year-olds, Melissa has overcome huge setbacks. Melissa is hoping to raise funds for a wheelchair accessible vehicle with help from our MobilityWorks store in Villa Park, Illinois.
Melissa Gets a Diagnosis
“There are many things that I would like to do and be part of but my ability to get around has been limited due to my ailments which include Type 2 Diabetes, Autism, Brittle Bones [Osteopenia] and Dystonia,” Melissa said.
“Dystonia was mentioned as a potential diagnosis in 2012, but I wasn’t officially diagnosed with it until December 2013,” Melissa said. “I kept falling a lot and would injure my wrist or ankle, or sometimes both. They would bruise and swell up and it was very painful so the orthopedic doctor I saw would usually put a cast on to make me feel better. Sometimes the x-rays would show there was actually a broken bone. I started to see a neurologist who ordered some tests and I was diagnosed with a form of dystonia. Dystonia is a progressive neuromuscular disorder that can resemble Multiple Sclerosis, ALS and cerebral palsy. There is really no cure but doctors treat the symptoms as they come up.”
Because Melissa has mobility challenges and she falls often, she uses a power wheelchair most of the time. She also sometimes uses her manual wheelchair and walker, but her muscles can be spastic. In addition to her muscular challenges, she has to be careful with what she eats due to her Diabetes. Between medication, blood sugar checks and other difficulties Melissa can become stressed out easily. She does her best to focus on the positives from her Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association[NISRA] Special Olympics team to being with her 19-year-old sister Rebecca and 18-year-old brother Adam.
The Family Faces Challenges
“My family’s lives have been turned upside down since my diagnosis,” Melissa said. “I went from running on the track team to being in a wheelchair in 2 years.”
Melissa’s mom, despite suffering from a brain aneurysm, has spent lots of time taking her to doctor appointments and researching care. Melissa’s mom had to retire from being a nurse and has a damaged back from years of lifting, so getting Melissa into a traditional vehicle is difficult.
“My siblings have suffered as they have cancelled plans to stay home to help me because my mom was sick in the hospital and my dad was working,” Melissa said. “My dad worked hard for years to provide good health insurance for the family. My dad recently lost his job and our health insurance. We cannot get unemployment benefits so right now we have social security and my mom’s disability. Medical equipment, prescriptions and care is very expensive. Everyone in my family has sacrificed a lot to keep me going. We are a close knit family and we stick together.”
Melissa’s family is currently renting their home so they cannot make structural changes. Each night, Melissa is forced to crawl up the stairs to get to her bedroom which is tiring. Luckily, some kind neighbors built a wheelchair ramp outside their front door last year.
Melissa Spreads Awareness
“Another challenge is getting people to understand and accept others with differences that can be seen and unseen,” Melissa said.
Melissa uses this message with Team Melissa, an effort for inclusiveness for all.
“Team Melissa was a fundraising effort that we did with the help of 3ELove, a company founded by a young lady in a wheelchair who wanted to promote acceptance of people with disabilities,” Melissa said. “She passed away unexpectedly so her brother took over the company. Each January, we celebrate the International Day of Acceptance of people with disabilities.”
Melissa enjoys working with 3ELove and many other great nonprofits including Autism Speaks and NISRA. Her biggest goal is to improve how families access support.
“Everything we have learned is by word of mouth from others or what my mom has researched,” Melissa said. “We don’t have the financial means for a vehicle and some people lack medical care. We seem to have fallen through the cracks of society where we don’t qualify for many programs. I would like to promote widespread acceptance of disabilities and differences.”
Hoping for Accessibility
“My power chair currently stays home when I go out because my parents’ cars do not have lifts,” Melissa said. “Since my dad lost his job, we cannot even consider a used wheelchair van. My manual wheelchair is heavy and my mom is not supposed to lift it as there is a risk of her having a seizure and injuring herself further. The public transportation is unreliable and only available at certain times. They are closed on weekends as well. If I had a wheelchair van, I could get to doctor appointments easier and volunteer at several places.”
You can help Melissa by donating to her GoFundMe page or to any other worthy nonprofit organization. Melissa said that even if her family does not get a wheelchair van, any donation counts towards medical bills and rent. Melissa offers even more ideas if you can’t donate to her page.
“You can pay it forward, volunteer with the disabled or make a meal for someone down on their luck,” Melissa said. “There are so many things that can be done and if everyone volunteered a little bit the world would be a better place and people would feel better about themselves.”
Brandon Long was on his first deployment in Afghanistan in 2010 when he lost his legs to an IED blast just 2 days before his daughter Claire was born. Thanks to the MobilityWorks team and nonprofit Help Our Military Heroes, this deserving hero received the keys to a new BraunAbility Chrysler Town and Country.
Brandon Makes the Ultimate Sacrifice
Brandon was on foot patrol with his unit when he stepped on an IED. The young man’s squad worked hard to save his life.
“I remember flying through the air and I landed on my right side,” Brandon said of the explosion. “It was really hard to breathe, I couldn’t see anything but a cloud of dust. I remember speaking to the man upstairs and he was telling me my daughter was going to be on the way and I needed to look after her and my wife. He said because of your wife and daughter I am giving you a second chance.”
By the time he arrived at the hospital, Brandon lost 98% of his blood volume and had to be resuscitated multiple times. He was then airlifted to Germany.
“I was 9 months pregnant at the time,” Brandon’s wife Nicole said. “My cell phone rang and they said Brandon had stepped on an IED. All they knew was that he lost his legs and he was in critical condition. I didn’t know what to expect and I was terrified. I didn’t know what his emotions would be. But seeing him meet his daughter for the first time was amazing and overwhelming all at the same time.”
Brandon came home to the United States to recover in Maryland for 2 years. The young family has since moved to St. Augustine, Florida. The journey was tough but Brandon has adapted to all the changes. Homes For Our Troops built Brandon, Nicole and 5-year-old Claire an accessible home. The next step was for Brandon to get back on the road with a new wheelchair accessible minivan.
MobilityWorks Helps Brandon
“Tammy Phipps, a VA representative from Walter Reed in Maryland, referred Brandon to our store,” Tampa General Manager Brian Stuckey said. “Tammy also put Brandon in touch with Ted and Laurie Hollander, founders of Help Our Military Heroes [HOMH]. Brandon decided to work with HOMH and MobilityWorks based on our reputation.”
The Tampa team helped Brandon throughout the process so his vehicle would be safe for his family.
“We installed hand controls, a spinner knob and a transfer seat base,” Brian said. “The vehicle is a BraunAbility Town and Country with a power infloor ramp.”
The MobilityWorks team was proud to assist this young hero as he regains his freedom.
“Brandon is a great guy,” Brian said. “He is 5 years older than my son so I felt an instant connection. It is going to change his life and his little girl will be able to sit in the back and watch DVDs. The family is very happy with their new van. Brandon made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and I am thrilled that we could help him in any way possible.”
Laurie from Help Our Military Heroes agreed with Brian.
“Live a life worthy of their sacrifice,” Laurie said. “That’s my motto. It is part of my prayer every day.”
Brandon is grateful for all the help he has received.
“I don’t know where our family would be without help from people like them,” Brandon said. “The van is amazing and I still can’t believe it’s mine. To be able to hold the keys in my hand-it’s just amazing.”
The Tampa CBS and Fox News Affiliates were on hand during the van presentation. Click here to see Brandon get the keys to his new BraunAbility van at our Tampa store.