BELMONT - The happiness clearly showed on Alexander Chiasson's face Tuesday when going for the first lift into a new ride.
Alex, 13, and his family - mom, Tammy; dad, Chris; sisters Maddison and Kaileigh; and working dog, Tanner - travelled to Moncton to pick up a wheelchair accessible van.
"He is pretty darn excited," Tammy said of Alex, after the family picked up the van thanks to large community financial support.
Leaving for school without Tanner on Wednesday, Tammy said Alex's excitement continued.
"Alex looked at Tanner and said, ‘See you soon, buddy. Dad's going to take us for a drive in the van tonight. Promise.'"
Born 27-and-a-half weeks prematurely, Alex suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
"He's growing pretty fast now," said Tammy. "My husband is 6'3," so Alex is going to be pretty big."
Every time the family went somewhere, Alex had to be lifted into the vehicle and his wheelchair be driven into the back. The process was reversed when Alex needed to get out.
Over the past year, the family hosted a number of fundraisers to put toward the purchase of the vehicle, which cost about $54,000.
Tammy said the family had to finance about $15,000 after raising more than $38,000 through events such as auctions, karaoke and comedy nights. Many local businesses donated items to be used in the fundraiser, and some companies in Halifax also chipped in.
"There are so many names and companies to thank. Everyone helped us along on our journey. We are so touched by how the community opened its arms for our events, we give wholehearted thanks," Tammy said.
The BraunAbility van through Shoppers HomeHealth Care allows Alex room to grow, as the roof and floors are able to be lifted and lowered. It also allows Alex to stay seated in his wheelchair while getting in and out of the van, and for the duration of the ride.
That's a huge plus for Tammy and Chris, especially on trips outside of town, including the IWK Hospital in Halifax.
"We stopped in Amherst at the motor vehicle office for a couple of things and while Chris was inside, Alex said he had to use the washroom," said Tammy, adding the office is attached to the Atlantic Superstore. "So I just rolled him out of the van, took him in and rolled him back on."
"There are so many things people take for granted. This is just the icing on the cake."
Tammy said she doesn't care if her son has to stop five or 10 times on the next trip to the IWK, which will be soon for a surgery on Alex's ankles.
"He'll be in a cast for about a month, so this van couldn't have come at a better time," she said.
Although the family now has their van, Tammy said the next project will soon be underway - a wheel-in shower for Alex.