Community called to mobilize to win woman handicap-accessible van

Published 9:03 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Contributed Photo Lori Spada has entered a national contest to be one of three winners of a handicap accessible van, and due to recent events, she said she needs it now more than ever. With the help of voters locally, she believes she has a solid chance of being selected as a winner.

Contributed Photo Lori Spada has entered a national contest to be one of three winners of a handicap accessible van, and due to recent events, she said she needs it now more than ever. With the help of voters locally, she believes she has a solid chance of being selected as a winner.

A local woman is calling on the community to help her win a much-needed handicap-accessible van. Since she was diagnosed with polio at only one year old, Lori Spada has never enjoyed complete mobility. As part of Mobility Awareness Month, she has entered a National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association contest to win a handicap-accessible van. Though it is her third attempt at winning the van, she said she needs it now more than ever.

Her husband, who has been her caregiver, fell through a deck April. This accident fractured all his ribs and a section of his spine, so the two are now entirely dependent on friends to drive their van to wherever they need to go.

“It’s been difficult to say the least, because the things he normally took care of — if I can’t do it — I have to call a friend. He will heal, but it’s going to take a while.”

She said if she had the handicap-accessible van, she could take on the role of caregiver in this time when he needs it.

The problem with their current van, Spada said, is it is 20 years old and has more than 200,000 miles on it.

“It’s literally falling apart, so I pray that it holds together, because the thought of being housebound is…” she trailed off.

Neither she nor her husband can ride passenger in a vehicle that is not handicap-accessible as she cannot stand or walk, and he is essentially immobile till he heals.

“I think there’s a sense of freedom to be able to leave the house when you want, and to get outside of your yard even,” she said. “I think people probably don’t realize — sometimes you just forget.”

Spada is calling on the community to help her and her husband by voting online daily to help them win in this national contest. She is the only applicant from Elizabethton in the senior category.

“Having a handicap van is vital to our quality of life,” she said.

She said she believes it is important to support local people and to be aware of the challenges that immobility presents.

“Your sense of being able to live what most people would consider a normal everyday life — to be able to get in your vehicle and go to grocery store, to the doctor — those are the things we took for granted. I know I took it for granted when I still could do it,” Spada said.

Despite their mobility constraints, she said they enjoy doing volunteer work, whether it is with organizations that help provide solutions to issues with health, finances or anxiety, they help those people.

“Even with our problems, we try to stay active, and I enjoy getting out and doing things,” she said. “We’d like to be able to stay active doing that.”

The name of the contest is Local Heroes. Spada said she doesn’t feel like she’s a hero.

“But I think the definition of a hero is people who persevere through challenges, and having had polio since age 1, there have been a lot of challenges,” she said.

The realization that if something happens to their current van is daunting for Spada. She said the lack of access to a vehicle would mean they would be homebound.

“And I don’t think people realize how confining that is – mentally, it really kind of plays on you,” she said. “You can’t just call up a friend for a lift, because you cannot physically get into someone else’s vehicle. I would really like this to be more independent.”

The van would be, as she said, vital for them to continue an active lifestyle, and their ability to win depends almost entirely on the amount of votes they receive.

To vote for Spada, visit www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com and register to vote. She said people can also log in with Facebook and they can vote daily for Lori Spada in the senior category.

Everyday, the website will ask a question, and if answered correctly, each vote will count for two votes. Spada will provide the answers to these questions on her Facebook page “Lori’s NMEDA Handicap Van Contest.”

Spada will also be providing more information on herself and how to vote at a meet and greet at Wal-mart on Friday and Saturday.

The number of votes received will qualify candidates for the finals, in which judges will vote on winners in three categories. The last day to vote is May 31, and the winner of the contest will be notified on June 20. Anyone with questions on voting may contact her through her Facebook page.

“Everyone’s votes are greatly appreciated,” she said. “Thank you for helping me advance in this contest.”