Kids & Family

man stands in his office at AMS Vans in front of a wall full of decorations

Meet Our Team: Dallas Crum on What Fuels His Passion and Commitment to the Disability Community

We want you to get to know our team! In this blog series, we’ll periodically share employee spotlights in which we’ll tell the stories of the dedicated and innovative humans that “drive” AMS Vans. It’s the people that make up the heart of a company – and we believe we have the best!

Some people, after you meet them, are pretty impossible to forget. Well, Dallas Crum happens to be one of those guys. If you’ve visited our Atlanta location or stopped by our booth at Abilities Expo in the last 10 years or so, chances are you remember Dallas’ cool name, honest smile, big energy or the colorful artwork adorning his skin. But, there’s much more to Dallas Crum. In this blog, we share his story and a look into why he’s so committed to helping people in the disability community.

At 18, Dallas Joins AMS Vans

AMS Vans started in 1998 by Dallas’ dad, Kip Crum. About ten years later, after graduating high school, Dallas joined the company. He recalls, “I was trying to decide what career path I would take – what I really wanted to do in life. In the meantime, I had an opportunity to go and work for my dad and I decided to take it.”

He continues, “I started in the back, washing cars and doing visual inspections on cars we were buying. I’d take pictures of the vehicles to post on our website. Over the last decade, I worked in just about every area of the company – from sales, to nationwide deliveries, to even being operations manager for a while.”

Dallas says that delivering mobility vehicles to families nationwide was one of his favorite roles over the years. At around 19 years old, he was seeing some beautiful country around the U.S. and getting some valuable perspective about the customers that AMS Vans serves.

“I really liked doing deliveries because I got to see first-hand how people’s lives were changed when they received their mobility vehicle.”

In 2014, Dallas was running daily operations and business was going well selling vehicles online. The company was ready to expand to continue serving customers in the best way possible, so they decided to purchase the building that is now the Atlanta (Tucker) location, which became one of the largest mobility dealers in the nation. Today, AMS Vans also has customer-facing locations in Houston and Phoenix.

three people including a man in a wheelchair in front of a wheelchair accessible van

Disability Hits Home for Dallas and his Family

When Dallas first started at AMS Vans, he had no way of knowing that the disability community would become such a profound part of his life, both professionally and personally. While business was expanding at AMS, Dallas and his wife, Faith, were welcoming their second child into their lives, a daughter named Riley, to join their son, Ethan. But, as life can be unpredictable, the Crum family had a challenging journey ahead.

All most parents want is for their children to be happy and healthy and to thrive in every way. So, when something threatens those things, it can feel pretty terrifying. Around the time Riley was born, the Crums found out that she had an extremely rare chromosome disorder – a diagnosis that less than 200 people share worldwide. As if they weren’t already worrying enough about one child, Ethan received an autism diagnosis shortly after.

Suddenly, everything changed for Dallas, including his understanding of the community he worked in. He shares, “For the first time, I really started to understand what our community goes through, instead of watching from the outside and thinking I understood. I got to experience what it takes every day. You don’t realize the emotional, financial and physical stress that these types of situations put on people.”

“With a disability or medical diagnosis, it seems like you’re always fighting with doctors, schools, and everyone else, to get the resources they need.”

The Crums soon learned that there was therapy available that could help their son, Ethan, but it was not covered by insurance. It was called Intensive ABA Therapy and the price tag was $35,000 for the year of therapy that Ethan needed. Dallas and Faith decided they would do whatever it took to make it happen. They had to sell their cars and dip into savings, but they were able to pay for it.

a dad, mom and two kids together

Dallas and his wife met when Faith was a barista at the Starbucks that Dallas frequented each morning. This November, they’ll celebrate 10 years of marriage. Ethan is now 7 and Riley is 5.

None of us may know what the future holds, so the Crum family takes it one day at a time. Dallas reflects, “Riley’s prognosis is unknown, so we don’t really know what to expect every day. But, what we do know now is both of our kids are thriving and that’s all we can ask for. We’re thankful each day to have the chance to love and cherish them.”

Dallas Pours His Heart Into Community Relations

After Riley was born, Dallas started working more directly with the disability community, collaborating with local non-profits and attending consumer-facing events. When AMS Vans was acquired by VMI (a leading manufacturer of wheelchair-accessible vehicles) in 2017, Dallas’ role transitioned to support both organizations on a national level as the Director of Partnerships and Community Development. And, it seems to be the role he was born for.

When asked what he loves most about the work he does in the disability industry, Dallas replied, “I love relationships. I like advocating and fighting for people who sometimes can’t or won’t fight for themselves. I’m a passionate person and I like to live life to the fullest and bring that energy to the environment I’m in. Connecting with the community at events fills my heart with reason, vision, purpose… love.”

“I feel things deeply, so when I’m a part of something bigger than myself – it fuels me, drives me. When I’m around my family and the community, it keeps things in perspective and allows me to remember how honored I am to be part of all this.”

group of three people at an expo for people with disabilities

Dallas Crum, Mack Marsh of Parking Mobility, and Kristina Rhoades pose for a photo at Abilities Expo

While Dallas could probably work for just about any company in the industry, he’s with AMS Vans and VMI because it’s where he feels like he can do the most good. “The passion and the vision of this company is what gets me,” Dallas explains, “our hearts are in the right place. We’re all about trying to make accessible vehicle solutions more available and more affordable and support our community – more than anyone else in the industry.”

“I don’t think anyone else can rival our passion. We want to rally behind our community to make a difference. We want everyone to have mobility freedom – and we’re committed to finding a way to provide that, above and beyond just building and selling accessible vehicles. We’re here to make a positive impact, and we plan to do so,” Dallas concludes.

Click to learn more about AMS Vans or VMI and view our vast selection of wheelchair accessible vehicles

bright orange pumpkins in a pumpkin patch

10 Creative Halloween Costume Ideas for Wheelchair-Users

It’s hard to believe that Halloween is almost here and will kick off the holiday season. This first fall holiday is all about having fun – dressing up for trick-or-treating, costume parades, sweet snacks, scary movies and parties are common pastimes. If you’re incorporating a wheelchair into your costume, it’s an opportunity to bring some extra creativity. Many creative kids and inventive adults have truly taken this task to the next level.

If you’re still trying to decide on your costume or helping out a loved one, check out these cool costumes.

Master of the Seas

Building a ship around a wheelchair for Halloween gives way to all sorts of fun costume ideas. Dressing up as a generic pirate is a classic costume, but other options include more specific choices, such as Captain Jack Sparrow, Blackbeard, the famous female pirate Anne Bonny, Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid or, for kids, Moana is a great option.

Supplies:

  • Cardboard for ship
  • Tall stick and sheet-flag
  • Markers and paint
little girls in power chair dressed up as Moana

Photo: thislittlemiggy.com

I Am Batman

Over many decades, boys, girls and adults have adored the popular Batman franchise whose heroic characters may lack superpowers but have gadgets galore including the infamous Batmobile. Parents of eleven-year-old Gavin truly enjoyed going all out building Batman’s ride to transport their son around their neighborhood in style on Halloween. You can try to build something similar to them, or create a less-complex version with cardboard. One thing’s for sure – this would be a costume to remember!

Cruising in a Kayak

boy incorporating his wheelchair into a halloween costume of him riding in a kayakSpeaking of water, the creative minds over at the Fine Craft Guild have showcased a boy riding inside his rowing vessel with the namesake “Toddler Tour Kayaks.” This watercraft Halloween costume almost completely encompasses the tiny tot’s wheelchair and comes complete with oars as trim. Paint any name you want on the side!

Supplies:

  • Large pieces of cardboard
  • Paint
  • Clear packing tape
  • Straps or zip-ties to attach the “kayak” to the chair
  • Small oars for props

Princess Power

Little girls have been dreaming about being Disney princesses for decades. Thus, a four-year-old from Minneapolis made headlines with her Princess Sophia-inspired carriage complete with lights and trim. Kudos to the design team behind this transformed a motorized wheelchair. All you need is a princess outfit, then decide how elaborate you want to decorate the “thrown.” You could go all out by attaching cardboard or just tie some cool streamers and bows onto the chair to make it fancy.

 

Seated on The Game of Thrones

Adults can get in on the Halloween fun, too!  If you’re willing to put some time and energy into a bit more of an elaborate costume – and if you’re a fan of the show – this Game of Thrones-inspired throne could be a perfect choice. Although “winter is coming,” the person who shows up in his costume should get more than a warm welcome this Halloween.

guy in a power chair in a game of thrones halloween costume

 

Super Smart Mario Kart

Super Mario and all the related games are iconic across generations. Mario Kart is a fun and creative option for a Halloween costume incorporating a wheelchair. Standard supplies are below, but images and full instructions for re-creating Mario’s Kart can be found on the blog from Wheelchair Costumes. Just pick your favorite Super Mario character costume to top it all off!

Supplies:

  • Cardboard Vehicle Frame
  • Styrofoam Booster Jets
  • Tissue Paper Flames
  • Paint

Rocking and Rolling

boy in a wheelchair with a halloween costume that looks like he is playing the drumsAnother fun costume idea from Fine Craft Guild, is a rock star. While the drummer is commonly seated at the back of the band, with this costume, percussion takes center stage. With a little imagination, this musician is seated behind a sweet bass drum and smaller drums, and symbols, too. Throw on some rock star attire, and this costume is ready to roll!

Supplies:

  • A hula hoop
  • Cardboard
  • Solid-colored gift wrap (shiny for more effect)
  • 2 coffee cans
  • 2 disposable pie tins
  • A stick or pole for the symbols (pie tins)
  • Drum sticks for props

Race Car Driver (or other cool car)

For those who like to go fast, there are so many possible designs to turn a wheelchair into a super cool fast car. From an Indie 500 car to the Delorean, to your favorite sports car, there are lots of options. Similar to Mario Kart, all you need is cardboard and paint, plus a helmet for the full effect. You could even attach some battery-powered LED lights on the front for a cool effect!

Life on the Farm

Another creative costume for kids and adults involves transforming the wheelchair into a tractor! With similar supplies as we’ve mentioned above, and a little green or yellow paint, it’s easy to become a full-fledged farmer this Halloween. Grab a cowboy hat, a bandana and a piece of straw to chew on, and you’re all set! Yee-haw, ya’ll!

little boy in a wheelchair with a tractor costume

 

 

If you’re in the market for a new wheelchair accessible vehicle or need a rental to make this Halloween special, be sure to check out our huge inventory of new and used vans. From all of us here at AMS Vans, we hope that all who celebrate enjoy safe and happy Halloween festivities! If Halloween’s not your thing, then we wish you a Happy Fall!

silhouette of woman in a wheelchair looking at a sunset

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month

September is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month and to help raise awareness, we put together a list of helpful resources and support groups for our friends and customers with spinal cord injuries (SCI). These resources are also helpful for families, loved ones, therapists, caretakers – and for anyone looking to contribute to a worthy cause.

National Resources for People with Spinal Cord Injury

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

One of the most well-known organizations for SCI, the Reeve Foundation was founded in 1999 and is dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injury by funding innovative research and offering services that improve the quality of life for those living with paralysis. Further, they provide resources on health, rehabilitation, costs, and insurance, and funding to nonprofits that serve the disability community.

Website: https://www.christopherreeve.org
Contact: 800-539-7309

United Spinal Association

A national 501(c) (3) nonprofit membership organization, United Spinal is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of those living with spinal cord injuries and disorders. United Spinal transforms the lives of people with SCI/D by:

  • Advocating for greater access to healthcare, mobility equipment, public transportation, rehabilitation, community services and supports, and the built environment
  • Empowering our members with resources, one-on-one assistance, and peer support
  • Promoting independence through employment opportunities and community integration of wheelchair users into mainstream society

Website: https://unitedspinal.org
Contact: 718-803-3782

Miami Project to Cure Paralysis

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis was founded in 1985 with the help of Barth A. Green, M.D. and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti after Nick’s son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game.  The Miami Project is a Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.  It is considered the premier investigative research program conducting cutting edge discovery, translational, and clinical investigations targeting spinal cord and brain injuries.

Website: https://www.themiamiproject.org
Contact: 305-243-6001

Travis Roy Foundation women smiling playing wheelchair basketball

The Travis Roy Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the life of individuals with spinal cord injuries and their families by providing adaptive equipment and to finding a cure through increased funding of research, resulting in self-reliance and the ability to be as independent as possible. Half of the money raised by the Travis Roy Foundation goes toward Quality of Life grants to purchase adaptive equipment to help paraplegics and quadriplegics live their lives.

Website: https://www.travisroyfoundation.org
Contact: info@travisroyfoundation.org

Triumph Foundation

Triumph Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to help children, adults, and Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury/Disorder (SCI) to triumph over their disability and to inspire them to keep moving forward with their lives by pushing themselves to get better every day. Triumph Foundation works to minimize the obstacles that one faces after suffering traumatic injury.

Website: https://triumph-foundation.org
Contact: 661-803-3700

Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury 101

Videos developed by Shepherd Center, that use simple language and images of real people who have sustained a spinal cord injury, as well as medical experts and advocates. They also offer general information about SCI and TBI.

Website: www.spinalinjury101.org
Contact: 404-352-2020

SpinalCord.com

SpinalCord.com was started by Swope, Rodante P.A. to be a resource for SCI survivors and their families. Get access to more resources, such as information about new injuries, doctor/treatment centers, and legal or financial aid.

Website: https://www.spinalcord.com
Contact: 877-336-7192

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Founded in 1946, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is involved in research, resources, and legislation concerning spinal cord injuries. PVA also sponsors sporting events and programs such as the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. PVA will use their expertise to be the leading advocate for:

Website: https://www.pva.org
Contact: 800-424-8200

Spinal Cord Injury

Facebook Peer Support Groups for SCI

Often, the best way to find resources and support for SCI is to connect with others who are sharing a same or similar experience. Many communities have in-person groups where people can meet one another, but there are also opportunities to get lots of great information and some camaraderie, too, virtually with Facebook Groups. See some popular options below (click to visit).

Fundraising with Help Hope Live

We understand that sometimes, with spinal cord injury, the biggest obstacle to mobility freedom is the cost of products, technology and medical services. That’s why we partnered with Help Hope Live; to connect our community with a fundraising option to purchase the wheelchair accessible vehicle that they need.

Help Hope Live is the leading community-based fundraising platform for people with unmet medical expenses due to catastrophic injuries or illnesses. They provide the following support and advantages throughout the fundraising campaign:

  • One-on-one fundraising help
  • Customizable Campaign Page
  • Bill pay support
  • Additional benefits based on their nonprofit status, including tax deductible donations

Learn more about Help Hope Live and get started here.

AMS Vans is a leading advocate of mobility freedom for persons living with spinal cord injury, and one of the largest providers of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the country. We offer low prices on quality mobility vehicles, affordable short- or long-term handicap van rentals, mobility equipment sales with installation, and trade-in opportunities for your current adaptive or unmodified vehicle. Explore our inventory or call us at 1-800-775-8267.

group shot including a boy on a therapy bike

Bubba’s Story Inspires a Community

Upon having his adaptive bike stolen from his backyard, Beorn (fondly known as Bubba) and his family were devastated. The ability to go for a bike ride is something many of us take for granted. Not only was his bike crucial in his ongoing therapy, but it connected him to his family and all the other kids out there. With a several thousand-dollar price tag and four other kids to look after, Bubba’s mother, Stephanie, was at a loss on what to do next. So, she created a Facebook post, and it all started from there.

social media screenshot of boy in a therapy bike that got stolen

“When all this started, I was upset someone had taken my boy’s bike and knew it would be years before I could replace it. I was disheartened, to say the least. I felt like there was no point in reporting the loss, but I’m so glad I was persuaded to do it. Instead of being a bitter experience it has turned into this amazing thing I could have never of imagined. I was excited when we had over 100,000 shares – my mind is still blown!

My phone has literally been blowing up. I’ve tried to respond to messages but just can’t even keep up. The overwhelming response of support and love for my boy brings me to tears. I am beyond words to ever express how grateful and appreciative we are to everyone who has shared my posts, commented with support or advice, offered to set up a Go Fund Me, or to buy a new bike out right. I’m still in awe over all this.

I’ve heard many times “people suck,” but I believe all this has proven just the opposite. Big hearts are what I’ve seen from all of this, and that’s my takeaway: most people are good and caring,” shared Stephanie.

screenshot of news story, headline reading "community steps up to help valley teen"

An AMS Vans employee saw Bubba’s story on the local news and noticed the family was driving one of their vans.  He asked his senior managers how they could help, and the business immediately reached out to the family to offer a new bike custom-built to Bubba’s needs.

“Our mission is to really provide independence through mobility solutions, and while yes we do sell vans, Bubba’s independence was getting on the bike and riding with his brothers and sisters,” said general manager Randy Shiller. 

screenshot of news story, headline reading "boy gets new special needs bike"

One month later, the big “bike reveal” happened on a beautiful day at a local park with the family, community and media in attendance – everyone sharing in the special moment. After a quick fitting fromNumotion, Bubba was off again with a happy smile back on his face.

back of a therapy bike for kids with a custom license plate that reads "bubba" 

While AMS Vans provided Bubba with a new Rifton Adaptive Tricycle, there are still many families and children like him in need. And, you can help.

The Suzy Foundationis a charity especially close to Beorn’s family’s heart. The foundation specializes in helping to obtain assistive equipment for individuals with special needs – like this amazing bike.

To get involved, go to suzyfoundation.org

A special thanks to the local media for helping share Bubba’s story. You can watch their coverage below.

Bubba Needs Help:

NBC 12 News
ABC 15 Arizona
AZ Family 3TV & CBS 5

The Community Steps Up:

NBC 12 News
ABC 15 Arizona
AZ Family 3TV & CBS 5

Bubba Gets a New Bike:

NBC 12 News
ABC 15 Arizona