The bright blue 1999 Dodge Caravan was the same colour as Joey Wilson-Smithenson’s balloon, but it was the smile on the 12-year-old’s face that stole the show Wednesday at Galaxy Motors.
Thanks to a coalition of community support, Joey and his dad, Scott Smithenson, were picking up the van that will now make their lives a whole lot easier. Joey, who attends Glanford Middle School with his sister, Jillian, 13, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Scott, a single parent, is currently completing his Community Support Education program at Camosun College, training he plans to put to work in a new career following graduation.
The new van will not only make daily family life simpler, but also be a huge boost in his plans to return to work. Without the unexpected support from the community, however, a vehicle wouldn’t have been possible for a few years down the road, he says, noting even something as basic as grocery shopping will now be so much easier for the family that previously walked or bused. “It will be a big boost for our family,” Scott says. “It’s going to be great to be able to get out in the community more, to have more freedom and be more mobile.”
Of course, any car owner knows that purchasing the vehicle is just the start; issues such as insurance and maintenance can also be prohibitive, but for the Smithensons, they’ll have a year without having to worry about those costs too. The donation came together thanks to Reinert Peterson, whose son Evan is Joey’s good friend. A comment to Gorge Vale Automotive owner, David Christison, about how the family was making do without a vehicle led to the formulation of the idea. “In addition we’re going to supply any maintenance for a year and keep it running smoothly,” Christison says.
A call to Maxxam Insurance netted full insurance coverage, while another call to Peninsula Co-op brought a full tank of gas. The Galaxy Motors general manager pointed out, “The fact that Reinert thought he could get the industry as a whole to be a part of it, it just seemed like something we could work at together.”, noting that it was the second request Galaxy had received in a short time for a local family in need.
The generosity of Galaxy owner Phil Dagger meant they didn’t have to choose between two equally deserving families.
“Galaxy has a mandate to be quite active locally, so to be able to help a single dad, going to school to work in a similar field to help others, it was an opportunity we were happy to take advantage of!”