Vet Finds Freedom After 30 Years of Do-It-Yourself Mobility
Ask Gary Hefty about his new Toyota Rampvan, and you'll have to give him a minute. "It about brings me to tears to talk about it," says the 68 year-old.
Since he began using a power wheelchair in 1979 - over 32 years ago - he's made his own transportation. He knew mobility vehicles existed, he just never thought he could afford one. Even so, the veteran wasn't about to stay confined to his home. Gary had a full-sized van, and he asked a trusted friend with a fabrication shop to help him lower a portion of the floor and figure out a way to install some makeshift rails to make it accessible. it wasn't pretty, but it worked...for a while.
Last year he finally decided to purchase a wheelchair van, and a mobility dealer not far from Gary's home had nearly sold him on a used conversion. Fortunately someone suggested he contact Scott and Sherry at Siebert Mobility. Not only did the longtime BraunAbility dealership show him a selection of wheelchair vans that would fit his tall frame, but they contacted the Veterans Administration and discovered he qualified to have the conversion portion of the vehicle funded. Gary was in disbelief. No one had ever taken the time to walk him through his mobility eligibilities as a veteran. With the new-found funding, Gary was able to drive home with a new Toyota Rampvan for less than the used conversion the other company had tried to sell him.
Gary was in disbelief. No one had ever taken the time to walk him through his mobility eligibilities as a veteran. With the new-found funding, Gary was able to drive home with a new Toyota Rampvan for less than the used conversion the other company had tried to sell him.
"Anyone who knows me would say I'm a little bull-headed," said Gary, adding that he quickly dropped the stubbornness at Sieberts. "I've been in and out of more than a few dealerships in my life, and there's no comparing to the level of service I had with them."
Siebert Mobility was founded in 1978 by Bill Siebert and has expanded to include three locations in Iowa and one in Arkansas and Nebraska - all built on this same model of customer service.
"That's just what we do," said Sherry, adding that many customers visit the dealership never realizing they were eligible for funding assistance. "Whether it's VA or Voc Rehab or another organization, we know who to talk to and what to ask to find out if there's a way to help our customers afford their equipment."
As for his new ride, Gary is overjoyed to be through with his handmade mobility and able to rely on a much more convenient and safer wheelchair van now. "It's just so slick," said Gary. "You just roll right in and you're done. And the visibility is so much better." Best of all, the handicap van still has plenty of room for all three of his border collies (Riley, Gracie and Tupelo), each of whom are better cures for depression than any doctor's prescription.
Gary has shown Scott and Sherry just how much he appreciated their personal attention over the past few months. He brought them his homegrown tomatoes, pictures of his grandchildren, and keeps in touch with weekly phone calls to tell him where his wheelchair van has taken him recently.