March 2013

Cerebral Palsy Students Wheelchair Van Prom Ride

AMS Wheelchair Van Takes Couple with Cerebral Palsy to Prom!

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about AMS Vans participating in a “random act of kindness” arranged by local Atlanta TV station WXIA-TV, 11Alive, the city’s NBC affiliate. Two Lassiter High School students, Jessica Wilson and Donnie Gooding, who both have cerebral palsy and use wheelchairs, had a date for their junior prom. Their problem was that they couldn’t go together because neither student’s parents had an wheelchair van capable of carrying two wheelchair passengers at the same time. Jessica’s aunt, Teresa Loftin, stepped in to save the day!

Random Act of Kindness - AMS Wheelchair Van for Cerebral Palsy Couple to Attend Prom

Aunt Teresa called the TV station, which does a regular segment called “Random Acts of Kindness” and asked them to help her with an act of kindness for Jessica and her boyfriend. Her request was chosen, and AMS Vans was contacted by a producer at the station to ask if we’d provide a two-wheelchair-passenger handicap van with room for the two moms, along with a driver, for the night. We said yes in less than a heartbeat, and two days later, we were at Lassiter High School with a van when the 11Alive morning news anchor, Karyn Greer, surprised the kids in class, brought them outside, and showed them their chariot for prom night: a 2-wheelchair passenger handicap van. They were pretty excited!

Cerebral Palsy Prom Couple Holding Hands on the Way to Prom in AMS Van

So were we! I had the sheer pleasure of being at Lassiter High School again this past Saturday (March 16) to take video of the couple on their amazing night, which was warm and clear–perfect for a long-awaited celebration.

AMS Vheelchair Van Chauffeurs Cerebral Palsy Couple to Prom

Donnie Gets Prom Boutonniere Before Wheelchair Van Ride

Cerebral Palsy Prom Couple Get Wheelchair Van Ride in AMS Van

Jessica looked lovely in sunny yellow as she put on her yellow-rose wrist corsage. When Donnie got his yellow-rose boutonniere pinned, they took their prom pics at the school. Then the two got in our AMS wheelchair van, with their moms in the back seat, and they were taken to a deluxe restaurant where they met more family members for dinner. The AMS Van was in line with long, black limos as they dropped off prom-goers at the restaurant, and finally, at the world-famous, fabulous Fox Theatre on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, where a smiling, splendidly dressed concierge in a top hat gave them a memorable greeting. Their prom was held in the magnificent Egyptian Ballroom, which is part of the theater.

Jessica and Donnie Enter Lassiter Prom

The photographer from the TV station and I followed them as the entered the ballroom, where dozens of their classmates were already on the dance floor enjoying the music. When the moms wheeled the pair onto the dance floor, their classmates erupted in applause. (I’m glad I brought tissues with me! It was impossible not to be filled with emotion!) The announcement of prom king and queen came later that night, when John and Emma Kate, who were elected king and queen, performed their own random act of kindness at that very moment–which they prearranged. When Lassiter High’s prom royalty walked to the center of the ballroom to begin their dance as king and queen, they brought Jessica and Donnie on the ballroom floor, too–and the night was theirs!

Jessica and Donnie Enter Lassiter High School Prom

Jessica and Donnie Wheelchair Dancing at Lassiter Prom

The evening went above and beyond everyone’s expectations, and we were thrilled to be there. I’d like to personally commend and thank AMS Vans driver extraordinaire Doug Radloff, the couple’s chauffeur for the evening, whose charm and skill made them feel comfortable, safe, and as close together as they dreamed of in a limo for two on prom night.

Here’s the 11Alive “Random Acts of Kindness” follow-up story!

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Canine Assistants Disabilities Spokesdog Pirelli

‘Spokesdog’ for Disabilities to Be Fitted with Prosthetic Paw

Last year, the Atlanta-based service dog nonprofit organization, Canine Assistants, welcomed a litter of golden retrievers into the world. Most of the pups would grow up to be service dogs, but one pup would be sitting out of the training, a result of being born without his left hind paw. Instead, Pirelli has a hope-filled life as a spokesdog for disability awareness while awaiting his very own carbon-fiber prosthetic paw.

Canine Assistants Disabilities Spokesdog with Prosthetic Leg

According to veterinarian Dr. Kent Bruner, the injury was likely caused by the umbilical cord wrapping around the paw and cutting off blood flow to the limb before birth. Pirelli was fitted with a temporary prosthetic paw while he grew through the puppy stage.

Pirelli travels around Georgia, visiting schools as a “spokesdog” to spread a message of acceptance. He’s captured the hearts of many and has inspired kids who have physical and mental disabilities just by being himself.

Disabilities Spokesdog Pirelli Getting Oscar Pistorius Type Leg

With the help of Groupon, who offered to match up to $25,000 worth of fundraising done via the deal site, and fundraising efforts made online by Canine Assistants, Pirelli will be fitted with a state-of-the-art carbon-fiber paw, very similar to the one worn by elite runner and Olympian Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee with prosthetic legs who competed successfully against able-bodied runners. Once Pirelli has reached full-size, his prosthetic paw will be put in place surgically by a team at North Carolina State University’s veterinary school.

Disabilities Spokesdog Pirelli Gets Carbon Fiber Prosthetic Paw

What is unique about Pirelli’s surgery is that the prosthetic will be implanted into the bone, meaning that there will be no need for straps or padding to secure the new paw. Once healed, the implant will be permanent, and the only thing that will be done in the future is occasional replacement of the retread paw as it wears down. The Hangar Clinic, which is the same company whose prosthetic work that inspired the movie Dolphin Tales, is constructing the prosthetic.

Disabilities Spokesdog Pirelli Geetting Carbon Fiber Prosthetic Leg

“Pirelli is just an exquisite example that life isn’t about how you get from place to place, or what you see or hear. It’s so much more than that,” said Jennifer Arnold, the founder of Canine Assistants. “Imagine the impact Pirelli will have on students when he enters the classroom and says in his own way, ‘Let’s redefine normal!’ ‘Forget the foot. Love me, I’m a dog!’ is a perfect example of how everyone should approach disabilities, and we are excited Pirelli will soon be helping us spread the word.”


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