Kody Harlow and the Ultimate FanVan!

Kody gives the 'thumbs up' from his new wheelchair van.
Kody gives a thumbs up from his new wheelchair van.

After hitting a few speed bumps that would have sent even the Braun Racing cars in for a pit stop, Kody Harlow finally got behind the wheel of his new van this past weekend.

It was a day the Harlow family will always remember – especially because it almost didn’t happen.

The 14-year-old was hospitalized for a serious infection for almost two weeks leading up to the race. For a while we wondered if he’d be able to make the trip down to Charlotte for the presentation. But according to his mother, Kody wasn’t going to let that happen.

“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this was a great incentive for him to beat this awful infection and make sure he was ready-to-go on race day!” said Stephanie.

With two days to spare, Kody was finally discharged from the hospital. By Friday morning he was ready and waving as the BraunAbility corporate jet landed at a local airport. Along with his mom, step-dad Kenny, and brother Killian (13), Kody flew down to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 Race.

The Harlow family (Stephanie, Kody, Killian and Kenny) poses in front of their new wheelchair van.
The Harlow family (Stephanie, Kody, Killian and Kenny) poses in front of their new wheelchair van.

Before he got behind the wheel of his new Toyota Sienna with a BraunAbility Rampvan conversion, he first got behind the joystick of his new Permobil wheelchair.In a matter of seconds he’d figured out how to switch on the headlights, the turn signals and how to kick the chair into high gear. In fact, it was a struggle for the rest of us to keep up with him as he weaved in and out of pedestrian traffic on the way to meet the van!

Once Kody was finally face-to-grille with the FanVan, it was love at first sight. When the rest of the family caught up to Kody, they were equally impressed. They spent a good deal of time checking out all the van’s gadgets – the GPS system, DVD players, custom KatSkinz seats.

What did Kody think? “It’s awesome!” he repeated. Kody had a few other visitors to the booth to check out the van, including Greg Glander from Toyota Mobility, BraunAbility CEO Ralph Braun, Steve Overholser from Great Clips and Braun Racing driver Jason Leffler.

For Kody the highlight of the night came right before the race when he took a pre-race lap around the track . Kody and Killian waved to the crowd as his story was announced over the track’s loudspeaker. Once the race started, the family had front row seats – they were right behind the crew during the pit stops (and even had a close up look at a wreck!)

The Harlow family -- in the pits and on the track!
The Harlow family – in the pits and on the track!

In the next couple of weeks, the Harlows will take official delivery of their new wheelchair van once the appropriate modifications have been made at MC Mobility in Cincinnati. Look for a blog update on that presentation as soon as it happens!

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible for the Harlow family, especially our co-sponsors, Toyota, Great Clips, Permobil, and Coleman. Everyone at the track was incredibly gracious and helpful as well. Most importantly, thank you to Kody for the fantastic entry and for keeping us entertained throughout this exciting day. We can’t wait until the van is officially parked in your driveway!

For a closer look at a day-in-the-life of the Harlow family as they meet the challenges of mitochondrial disease and other conditions, check out our previous blog.

Take a closer look at the day’s events and the FanVan on our Facebook page!

Here’s a short video of Kody’s trip: