Tag Archives: parenting

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

Caring for Disability Family Events

Parenting a Specially-abled Child

Being a parent of a child that is specially-abled looks a lot like facing hard truths head on, being able to admit those truths to yourself, and finding support.

Jolene Philo, a published author and speaker, wrote an article about 11 things that she found helped her with the role of parenting a specially-abled child.

Here’s our own version of her advice:

Embrace the stress: It’s not going anywhere. And it’s better to acknowledge that it’s there. You don’t let the stress beat you, but you point it out for the sake of doing something about it.

Stress is a symptom of something else, so identify the source: It’s grief. In order to be a parent of a specially-abled child, you have to let yourself grieve. You feel a sense of loss — okay, now grieve. Give yourself the freedom and acceptance to grieve.

Deal with the elephant in the room — guilt: The hand your child was dealt is not your fault, but it feels like it. You are a good parent, even though you constantly blame yourself. Find someone you can trust to counsel you or someone that you can be open with to vent to. Get rid of that guilt!

Start asking for help: Be prepared for people to ask you what they can do for you — make mental notes of the things you know someone else could do without too much trouble, and don’t be afraid to ask them to do it!

You are not the sole caregiver: Step down from the role you’ve given yourself of “sole caregiver.” Although we know that you are probably the best at caring for your child, there are actual “caregivers” that have been trained specifically for taking care of your child. More than that, though, others can be educated more about taking care of specially-abled children and come alongside you to assist you in every day life!

Form a support system: You need people you can reach out to when life is getting hard or when you need a helping hand in the midst of juggling so much; you need a group of people that can encourage you and stay up to date on your life — it will make you feel like you aren’t alone!

Take care of yourself: Whether that’s cutting out space in your day for some you-time or eating well and exercising, it’s important to make sure that you are physically and emotionally healthy when parenting a specially-abled child.

Don’t be too proud for professional help: If you’ve admitted to stress, pinpointed the root of your stress, allowed yourself the freedom and grace to grieve, then admitting that counseling sessions might be a good idea shouldn’t be too hard for you. If these exercises above don’t seem to be enough, then there are always more outlets a therapist could offer you in order to reduce the stress in your life.

Our very own Dallas Crum, head of community relations and business development, opened up about life as a parent to two specially-abled children.

He was honest about the real fears that come with the territory. “I’m most afraid of the unknown. Will my daughter be able to have a relationship and get married? Will my wife and I ever be empty nesters? Will our daughter live that long? What kind of future does my son have? Will he be able to support himself one day? Will he be accepted socially? Will our marriage make it through this? Will I make it through this? No answers. Knowing more than the doctors you see. Endless therapy, unique diets, financial strain, countless visits to every type of “specialist” and every type of doctor you can think of. IEP’s. Fighting to get your child the coverage and services they need with insurance, the school system, Medicaid, doctors, therapy providers, etc…”

Disability Community
Disabilities community

So  we asked him if there’s anything that makes life easier in spite of the fear and struggles: “What makes it easier? There is no ‘what makes it easier.’ What I do have that keeps me going? Faith, Love, Hope. I love those kids. No matter what the outcome for them and our family is, I wouldn’t trade it or who they are. This is my family.
Lastly, we wanted to share some advice from one parent to another: “It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to talk about what could have been or what may never be, It’s ok to wonder how in the world you are going to take another step. I would tell them you will have doubts, you will question why, you will have unanswerable questions. You may doubt God, your Faith. I wish I could end with a high five and a, ‘Don’t worry! it will get better!’ the only problem with that is, It’s [crap]. Try not to listen to people who mean well but say things that hurt, cause more confusion and mixed emotions. They don’t understand… They are saying the cliché phrases that should never be said.”

Still, Dallas wanted to end with this very important tip on parenting a specially-abled child: “I can say though, whatever the outcome, it’s worth it. Even if I don’t get to see my baby girl grow up and get married, I will never trade a moment I am blessed to spend with her. Even if my son doesn’t progress to a level that he can function independently one day, He is my son and he is enough, no matter who he is.”

It’s worth it. It’s okay to grieve, and it’s important to admit to feeling stressed or guilty on top of making time to take care of yourself. But it’s worth it. And it’s possible.