Circle of Giving: Family of disabled teen gifted wheelchair-accessible van
GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A Perkinston family is now able to hit the road together after a selfless viewer saw a WLOX story last week about the disabled teen’s family being in need of transportation.
Matthew Davis is 15 and suffered a stroke at just three days old, leaving him with cerebral palsy, Asperger’s and autism. Until recently, transporting him anywhere has been difficult. His mom Glenda Breland has been selling crafts at festivals and fairs to raise the $70,000 needed to buy a handicap-accessible van for their family.
That’s where WLOX found her on Nov. 27, behind a table at the McHenry Christmas Crafts Show. A story about the family’s need aired that night and was seen by Anita Jones.
Jones was also in need of a van to get to doctor’s appointments 45 minutes away in Hattiesburg. That’s where Diamondhead resident Callie Bunter comes in.
Bunter’s mother, who was wheelchair-bound, passed away about a year ago, leaving Bunter with several pieces of medical equipment and a 2005 Chevy Uplander that is adapted to fit a wheelchair.
“Her last wish was to donate any and all of her medical equipment because she was a paraplegic for almost 50 years. She was paralyzed at the age of 17,” Bunter said.
Bunter found a home for her mom’s wheelchair and, a few months ago, began looking for someone in need who she could donate the van to. After talking with Jones, who was a family friend, Bunter made the decision to give her the vehicle.
Before Bunter could transfer ownership of the van over, though, she had to find the title, which hadn’t been seen in 16 years. She spent months looking for the paperwork and trying to apply for a new one, but the title was nowhere to be found.
As Bunter continued her efforts, WLOX ran a story about Matthew and his family’s mission to raise money for a van. Anita Jones saw the story and said she realized that they needed it more than her.
“When I seen it, I, of course, cried,” said Jones.
She talked with Bunter and asked if the van could be donated to the teenager’s family instead.
That same day, almost as if it was by design or an act of fate, Bunter found the title in a place she hadn’t thought to look before.
“After Hurricane Katrina, my mom kept a go-bag,” said Bunter. “I went and pulled it out, and the title was there. It was like everything was meant to happen in a certain way.”
Bunter reached out to Matthew’s mom with her generous offer to give them the van.
“Ms. Anita saw the post. She was led to call Callie. Callie was led to do this. We don’t know what God will lead us to do next,” said Glenda Breland.
After some signatures, the van now has a new owner.
“It was so exciting. It was so overwhelming,” said Glenda Breland.
The van is a huge blessing to the family but, due to its age and condition, it’s only a temporary fix. Regardless, it will help the family significantly, especially getting back and forth to craft fairs so they can continue to raise the money needed to buy a newer van and some other equipment, like a ramp and a screened patio for their house.
The generosity of Bunter and the selflessness of Jones, though, is something the Brelands won’t soon forget.
“It’s something new to know that there’s still good people in this world,” said Glenda Breland.
Bunter said she wants to continue to help people with disabilities, especially when it comes to transportation. It’s the best way she knows to honor her mother.
“I do that all in my mom’s name because my mom has always taught me to give back to others,” said Bunter.
Bunter’s giving spirit comes from spending her life watching the strength and compassion her mom always showed.
“[My mom Dianne Calmes] was a very independent woman. She went to USM in the 70s before the ADA was a thing,” said Bunter. “She actually got into law school at Ole Miss and the only reason she couldn’t go was that she was in a wheelchair and they did not have wheelchair-accessible dorms. They didn’t have wheelchair-accessible buildings.”
Wanting to help in any way they could, Breland donated the family’s old van to Jones so she can still get back and forth to medical appointments. The 22-year-old van doesn’t have a working air conditioner, which causes Matthew to have medical issues, said his mother. Jones said she hopes she can get it fixed.
“We’ll be ok. We got another way. It’s a circle of giving,” said Jones.
In the meantime, Glenda Breland will continue raising money through her crafts and through donations. Being able to afford appropriate medical equipment is not easy.
“This (van) in 2005 was $48,000. This (van) now is at least double that,” said Breland, explaining how a wheelchair-accessible van now costs significantly more than it did 16 years ago.
Her family has formed a nonprofit, Matthew’s Fund Inc., to help them get the equipment needed to make Matthew’s life better. They also want to help other families who have loved ones with disabilities.
For more information about Matthew’s Fund Inc. or to donate medical equipment, Glenda Breland can be reached on the organization’s Facebook page.
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