VIDEO: Neighbors Surprise Family with Wheelchair-Accessible Van
'We Are Not A Community of Strangers.' Residents and organizations from Glenview and Wilmette helped raised money to buy a van for a Romona Elementary School family whose daughter has a severe neurological disorder.
When Wilmette firefighter Ben Wozney learned that a neighbor could not afford a much-needed wheelchair-accessible van, he decided to take action.
In just over a month, Wozney, along with his neighbors, and Wilmette and Glenview organizations were able to raise $8,000 to buy a wheelchair-accessible van for the Kurtz family.
“It was just extraordinary touching,” David Kurtz said tearing up when the community presented the van to the family Tuesday. “It’s amazing the outpouring and generosity of people, it came entirely unexpected to me.”
Growing up, Kurtz’s daughter Addie, 6, was a happy baby until she was suddenly diagnosed with severe neurologic disorder as a toddler. For the past couple of years, the Kurtz family had to schedule Addie’s appointments around various factors such as David’s availability to help lift her, or around Addie’s feeding schedule since she requires a feeding pump.
“We’ve had to plan our trips outside of her feeding time,” David said. “Now with the wheelchair van, she can continue feeding if we ever need to leave. So it’s going to make our lives a lot easier.”
Pitching in as a Community
Wozney and neighbors say they wanted to help because they often see David spend about 15 minutes lifting Addie in and out of the car, to transport Addie to Romona Elementary School.
“With all the medical expenses they were having, it was hard to spend that type of money on a wheelchair-accessible van, so I decided to start organizing,” Wozney said.
In July, Wozney stuffed notices in mailboxes around Cunliff Park neighborhood and garnered support from the area organizations and businesses such as the Wilmette Firemen’s Association, Bredemann Ford in Glenview, Jim Venn and masters Transportation, Glenview Firefighters Union Local 4186, Wilmette Rotary Club, Wilmette Optimist Club, Starbucks, Dan Tremonti and Core 12, The Band Creed, Najarian & Najarian Law and Lekas Auto of Glenview.
“It’s a used van and Bredemann Ford gave us a big discount on it when they found out what we were doing,” Wozney said.
Residents living near Cunliff Park say the area is a close-knit community, where people look out for each other, bring food when people are ill and check in on the elderly when needed.
“When we found out about [the Kurtz family’s] situation, it was the normal thing to do, everyone pitching in,” said Lowell Derdiger, who has lived in the area for 29 years. “We are not a community of strangers.”