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Special van affords more freedom and togetherness

It was getting harder and harder for mother and daughter to enjoy outings together but now, because of an especially equipped van,

It was getting harder and harder for mother and daughter to enjoy outings together but now, because of an especially equipped van, travel has become much easier.

Bentley’s Sheila Kelba-Warawa had to face the fact not being able to easily transport her now nine-year-old daughter, Guinevere Warawa, was holding her back from taking her daughter places.

When Guinevere was younger, lighter and smaller, Kelba-Warawa was able to lift her from her special customized wheelchair and into her car seat but now it was getting to be just too much of an ordeal.

Following up on a suggestion about two years ago by an occupational therapist, Kelba-Warawa decided the time had come to seek specialized transportation.

“It was finally getting too awkward to lift her (Guinevere) and was hurting my back. I knew that we had to have it for her safety too,” said Kelba-Warawa, so she went to work trying to find funding help.

The kind of transportation needed would cost at least $40,000. How could the single mother afford that?

It took about six months just to do the paperwork and fill in numerous applications and provide pictures, but in the end, and after a lot of work, Kelba-Warawa’s diligence paid off.

The President’s Choice Children’s Charity came through with $19,000, almost half of the cost.

The Children’s Ability Fund from Edmonton offered another $10,000.

Other gracious donors included the Red Deer Firefighters Children’s Charity, the Cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta and the Lacombe Kinsmen Club.

The ‘icing on the cake’ came when an elated Sheila was advised by the Bentley Royal Purple Lodge they had secured $6,000 from their national charity, The Elks & Royal Purple Children’s Fund, and had added an additional $1,000 from their own funds to go toward the cost. Now that the funding was in place Kelba-Warawa could actually go ahead and order the dream vehicle.

A van was ordered and purchased through the equipment side of Shoppers Home Health Care in Calgary.

“The Calgary salesman was very helpful and didn’t try to sell us something that was not needed or more expensive,” Kelba-Warawa. “He advised us what we needed, without the bells and whistles, to help keep the cost down. By taking a last year’s model, and a color that was in stock, it was cheaper and quicker to get.”

Shoppers Home Health Care normally tries to have some basic vans in stock that people can purchase but specific vans can sometimes be ordered through them. After the basic van purchase is confirmed, Shoppers Home Health Care equipment division sends it away to get retrofitted with a ramp and other specialized equipment that fills the customer’s unique needs.

A blue 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan with ‘Braunability’ was delivered to Bentley in mid-March and already has changed the lives of the two.

Their van includes a system to get a wheelchair into the van and be secured without brute muscle power. Now Guinevere can sit more comfortably in her customized wheelchair instead of having her legs dangling in a less-than-ideal car seat.

“It didn’t take me long to learn how to use it (the loading system). They showed me how when they delivered it and made sure I knew how before they left. Now I am getting really good at it. It doesn’t take nearly as long. It is becoming more automatic and I don’t have to think about it (the steps to take) so much,” says an ecstatic Kelba-Warawa.

The van has two extra flip down seats if needed and offers two different positions for fastening Guinevere’s chair depending on the circumstances.

It has no complicated expensive electronics and the back entry makes it easier to load and unload in a parking lot.

“The biggest change is it (having the van) makes me feel better I can do stuff with her. We can do things now. We can go shopping together now. She likes the mall. We just couldn’t do it before. It was just too hard so I avoided it. I didn’t take her out as much anymore. I waited until someone was with her and would go alone. It had become overwhelming (to try to load her and unload her). We can now go camping. She likes it.”

Mother and daughter have attended many more functions already, let alone being able to get to medical appointments, etc. much easier.

Having sponsors who cared enough to help this family afford the van has been life altering and Kelba-Warawa can’t thank people enough for the all the help.