(Repost) By Anyssa Roberts — firstname.lastname@example.org
NICHOLASVILLE, KY. — The scene was like that on the TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but it was a conspicuous yellow bus that was concealing the surprise.
On Wednesday, two days before the end of the school year, classmates of 7-year-old Braden Petrucci filled the back parking lot of Warner Elementary school. Teachers attempted to contain the excited students, as homemade signs with “Go Braden” and “We love you Braden” rustled between small hands.
When the bus rolled away, months of fundraising work in the form of a wheelchair van appeared for Braden, his mother Tenia Johnson, 28, and younger brother Darius, 3.
Braden has faced health struggles since his premature birth in 2006. Spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy confines him to a wheelchair although he continues to outgrow it. This April, Braden underwent a bilateral hip replacement at Shriners Hospital for Children.
Before receiving the van, Johnson had to lift her son into her Toyota Corolla then disassemble the wheels from his chair to fit it inside her car.
The van was part of a Christmas wish made by Braden last year. After hearing about the wish, the school began raising money. The students, teachers and staff set their sights on raising the $30,000.
“We have not done anything this large before, but to be a part of something that raises this much was a great experience,” Principal Val Gallutia said. “And the kids learned some good lessons just thinking about others.”
The van wasn’t a complete surprise to Johnson, who had been in contact with school officials throughout the fundraising process. Johnson worked with Superior Van & Mobility in Lexington to find a van that would be best for her and her sons.
“It’s interesting because I saw the van on the Internet, and did not get to see it in person until a few weeks ago at the car show they did,” Johnson said. “And when I saw it I broke down crying.”
In addition to the van, a book, donated by Cloud Printing, was given to the family. It featured pieces written and illustrated by students about what they learned from the fundraising process.
Efforts included in-school fundraising projects, a Facebook page as well as business vendors helping, too. The total raised was about $45,000. The extra money will be used for insurance and other expenses.
“As we started raising money we just started changing to a better van and now they have a top-of-the-line van,” said Cassy Churchill of Superior Van & Mobility.
“This here is going to change our lives immensely,” Johnson said.