Wheelchair Van Funding: Patience and Persistence Pay Off

a father with his son who is using a power wheelchair

Parenting is an exercise in patience.

There's the run-of-the-mill patience that just requires a few deep breaths to carry on, and then there's the patience that Dan and Denise Wolff exhibited as they adapted their lives to meet the needs and transportation requirements of their nine-year-old son, Nathan. When Denise was 30 weeks pregnant with Nathan, the couple's first child, she went into premature labor. He was delivered soon afterward, and because of the pre-term birth, was born with Cerebral Palsy and suffered brain trauma.

Life changes as soon as anyone becomes a parent, but it changes immeasurably when your child has special needs. Nathan developed at a slower rate mentally and physically, and until he began using a wheelchair at the age of three, his parents typically carried their growing son in and out of vehicles. The wheelchair was easier on their backs, but loading and unloading it every time the family took a trip was time-consuming.

By this time, Nathan wasn't the only thing that was growing - the Wolff family welcomed a healthy baby girl, Leah when Nathan was five years old. It wasn't long after that they decided to look into an accessible wheelchair van that would make life easier for the entire family.

They began their search at Siebert Mobility in Des Moines, where their hearts were set on a Chrysler BraunAbility wheelchair van (equipped with dual DVDs, of course). But as they soon found out, finding the perfect wheelchair van wasn't nearly as difficult as finding a way to pay for it.

Their search for funding assistance began at the Iowa Department of Human Services. The department offers a $6,000 home and vehicle modification waiver for individuals with serious medical conditions, like Nathan's brain injury. Denise set forth to do the impossible - convince a government agency to pay out more than their standard amount. Her goal was to receive an exception to the waiver - to cover the entire cost of their wheelchair van's conversion.

As anyone would guess, the task Denise had set out on was a nightmare of red tape and slow responses to questions. If her application was denied, Denise asked why and applied again. She gathered countless justifications from doctors and other medical professionals. Developing a close relationship with an employee from the DHS who was willing to guide her through the process proved to be extremely helpful as well. Finally, seven months after she'd set out on her quest, she received word that her request for a waiver to cover the entire conversion cost of the wheelchair van had been granted.

Sherry Mattson of Siebert Mobility was with the Wolff family for every step of the way. "We worked on this for over seven months, from the time she contacted us to the time we delivered their van," Sherry recalled. "The thing that impressed me most was the fact that Denise did not give up. I'm sure there were many days she was ready to quit, but she kept going."

Denise felt just as strongly about Sherry and the staff at the dealership. "We received exceptional service from Scott and Sherry at Siebert Mobility," she said. "Sherry and I were in almost daily communication with each other, and we became close friends through the process."

So what advice does Denise have for other parents or individuals going through the same process? "Be patient. Be persistent. Even when you're turned down, don't give up," said the determined mother.

Her persistence has definitely paid off. The family took their first vacation in the new van this past summer - a trip to Branson, Missouri over the July 4th holiday. The improvements in the family's day-to-day life have been huge also. For example, when she takes Nathan to school, she no longer needs to ask for help from staff members to get him in and out of their vehicle.

Sherry will always remember the day the Wolffs took possession of their new van. "They were so excited and all had huge smiles on their faces," she remembers. "It reminds me how we as dealers of BraunAbility can change a family's life."

Sherry also echoes Denise's advice to other families in search of funding: "Don't give up! There are many ways to secure funding. Ask a lot of questions. Turn to your BraunAbility dealer, support groups, and other organizations for ideas. There are many resources out there to help you."

The moral of this story is obvious. First of all, patience pays off. And secondly, relationships like the one that Sherry and Denise developed are priceless. The personal connection and understanding your dealer can provide are irreplaceable - and definitely not something you'd find from an online seller that's hundreds of miles away!

If you've developed a great relationship with your BraunAbility dealer, we'd love to hear your story - just leave a comment below! And if you have advice regarding funding assistance, feel free to share some tips!


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