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Manuel family in Sandy Cove raising money for wheelchair accessible van

James Manuel, 9, in his wheelchair at home.
James Manuel, 9, in his wheelchair at home. - Contributed

Darts, card games, a Go Fund Me, and a government grant application are all in the works

SANDY COVE, N.L. - Whenever James Manuel has to go somewhere, whether to school or a doctor’s appointment, a family member has to lift him out of his wheelchair and into a carseat so he can get to his destination.

That worked fine when he was small, but now that he is nine and getting bigger, it is becoming difficult for his family to do that transfer and they need a wheelchair accessible van so James can safely get to school or to a doctor’s appointment.

James’ mother, Tara-Lynn Manuel, explained the ease the vehicle would bring to their family.

“We would be able to go into the vehicle with him in his wheelchair,” Manuel said. “Now we have to lift him from his wheelchair to his car seat on board the truck. When we get to school we lift him out of his car seat and put him back into his wheelchair again.”

James Manuel, who, like most nine-year-olds, likes being outdoors, riding his (specially-fitted) bike and watching TV, was diagnosed with Coffin-Lowry syndrome as a baby. Coffin-Lowry syndrome has a wide-range of characteristic symptoms but for James it has resulted in him being unable to speak or walk, in addition to other disabilities.

Since Tara-Lynn and her husband Billy do not have the resources to purchase the $60,000 vehicle on their own, they have been asking the community’s help in raising the funds.

“We have a Go Fund Me on the go,” Tara-Lynn said. “We have had card games and a dart tournament. We are doing pretty good with it but we still need more.”

The Manuel family has strong local support, and some special help from cousin Rona Newhook in Alberta.

“I know I couldn’t be there physically but I wanted to support them in any way I could even if just giving them advice and promoting on social media,” Newhook said. “I was trying to encourage people in the area to get involved.”

The team has applied for a government grant to offset some of the costs, but there is still a lot of fundraising to be done.

Newhook says a lack of resources for kids with disabilities is a problem in many rural areas.

“The government won’t fund the necessities for James because the population of kids with disabilities like James isn’t there,” Newhook said. “Kids with disabilities like James’ on the Northern Peninsula don’t have the same equal rights or advantages as kids in the city. It shows the inequality and unfair treatment of the government for kids in rural communities in comparison to bigger centres where special buses pick them up.”

Tara-Lynn is grateful for the support her family has been shown so far, and she has other events planned for the near future.

“I have more card games and more darts happening later on,” she said. “I post it all on Facebook so anyone can see.”

Manuel’s Facebook group for the campaign is www.facebook.com/groups/2045334485480040

Newhook wants to thank everyone who has contributed funds, prizes or ideas for fundraising.

“We have to thank the people from the Northern Peninsula, far away and elsewhere in the country who have contributed to this important fund,” Newhook said. “It goes to show the generosity of the people in the area.”

To support the Manuel family’s campaign to purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle for James, please visit : www.gofundme.com/wheelchair-access-vehicle-for-james, email mewhook8@gmail.com, or donate directly to Tara-Lynn Manuel. The family has an account at the Bank of Nova Scotia and Rona Newhook, as well as Gloria White of Sandy Cove and Donna Whalen-Grimes of Flower’s Cove, are overseeing the account as the funds are being collected.

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