NEW ULM - For the past month, Carson Lewis and his family have been cruising around town in the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country Adaptive Vehicle, financed by a major fundraising effort called Cruizin' for Carson this summer.
The van features an automatic side door that opens, and a ramp that slides out at the push of a button and allows nine-year-old Carson, who has spastic cerebral palsy, to drive his motorized wheelchair up and into the passenger compartment. With the clip of a couple of clamps to lock him into place, he's ready to roll.
Carson, his mother and sister made a stop at Citizens Bank Minnesota Tuesday afternoon to show off their new wheels and to thank the Cruizin' for Carson Committee who led the fundraising effort.
The Lewis family poses with their new adaptive van, a 2013 Chrysler Town and Country, modfieid by IMED Mobility in Roseville. From left are Maria, Brooklyn, Carson, Mitch and Rex Lewis.
Jean Geistfeld, a member of the committee, said the fundraising activities and events "and many donatons from very generous individuals," have raised $62,000. After expenses of $4,500 for t-shirts and bracelets that were sold, and food for the fundraisers, the Crew had enough to pay for the modified van and more. Extra funds will be used to help the Lewis family make their home more handicapped accessible for Carson.
Carson has undergone nine surgical procedures and has regular treatment and therapy for his disease, which affects his muscle control and coordination, especially in his legs.
Maria Lewis, Carson's mother, said the new vehicle, which they picked up on Aug. 30, has made a big difference for the family, increasing the independence and mobility of the whole family, not just Carson.
Before, going somewhere with Carson was a major undertaking that had to be planned in advance. The family traveled in a regular vehicle and pulled a small trailer for Carson's push wheelchair. Lifting him in and out of the vehicle and stowing and unloading the wheelchair was a two-parent job. Now, with the push of a button, Carson can get his motorized chair into the car himself, where even his five-year-old sister Brooklyn can latch him in and push the button to close up the car. He also has his motorized chair available when he arrives at their destination.
The family, including father Mitch Lewis and 10-month-old brother Rex, can all fit into the van for family trips.