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Christmas not only came early for the Hall family this year, but they shared it with the entire county in a very special way that brought tears to the eyes of hundreds who watched their moment.
“I'm excited, nervous, and oh, just so happy," said Margaret Hall Saturday night at the Celebration of Lights, moments after being presented with a specially equipped wheelchair accessible van for her disabled son, Glenn.
The 2012 Dodge Caravan, draped with a tarp and topped by a huge red bow, had been parked next to the steps of the Shelby County Court House, and after the traditional Christmas tree lighting in Veterans Park across the street, Shelby County Magistrate Tony Carriss’ announcement to Hall and the crowd that the van was hers sent the throng into wild applause.
When Carriss’ granddaughter, 8-year-old Kendra Jackson, who had helped raise thousands to purchase the van, using money from her piggy bank, presented Hall with the keys to the van, Hall was too emotional to speak and simply enveloped Jackson in a tight hug.
Carriss’ next announcement to Hall brought tears to her eyes and even more cheers from the crowd.
“And we have also purchased an insurance policy for you, and since we know you will need gas to put in it, you also have one-thousand dollars in free gas,” he said.
Carriss, a driving force behind the fundraising efforts to purchase the van, introduced Paul Erway, to the crowd at the ceremony.
Erway, a rehab product consultant with Superior Van and Mobility, waved to the crowd from his own wheelchair, situated beside Carriss at the top of the courthouse steps. Erway, a Shelbyville resident of 15 years, was paralyzed from the waist down in an automobile accident just a week before his college graduation many years ago.
Erway, who became acquainted with the Halls when his church, Centenary Methodist Church, built them a wheelchair ramp at their home, said he became involved in the fundraising almost from the beginning.
“We were able to put together this for her, and then Superior donated a good portion of the money toward this,” he said.
The community effort to raise the money to purchase a special van for the Halls began in the spring when Hall lost in a contest she had entered to win a wheelchair accessible van for Glenn, 14, who suffers from a rare chromosomal disease.
He has a difficult time getting around, because it’s so difficult for his mother to take him places without a van with wheelchair access, especially because he is too big for her to lift in and out of a regular vehicle.
Glenn was born with Partial trisomy 6Q, an extremely rare chromosomal disorder in which a portion of the sixth chromosome is present three times rather than twice in the cells of the body.
Many affected infants and children have slow physical development, mental retardation, malformations of the skull and facial region and abnormal bending or extension of certain joints in fixed postures along with other physical abnormalities.
Glenn was present Saturday, in his wheelchair, smiling at the crowd, his eyes reflecting both excitement and wonder at the hundreds of people cheering, crying and waving to his mother and himself.
Hall’s church family at First Christian Church put together a committee, spearheaded by Carriss, magistrate in District 6 in Mount Eden, to brainstorm and come up with a series of fundraisers to help raise the money needed to purchase a specially equipped van.
The Van for Glenn Committee was busy ever since, holding bake sales, corn-hole tournaments and many other activities. Fundraising efforts intensified a few months ago when Jackson issued a community wide challenge for people to match the $56 she donated from her piggy bank.
The committee of 50 people, along with Shelby County Community Charities, had nearly 20 separate fundraising events, taking in a total of $40,000.
Gary Walls of Shelby County Community Charities was also on hand Saturday.
“This is just great; it just shows you what an entire community full of giving hearts can accomplish,” he said.
Erway said he was really glad his company could help, donating $5,000 toward the cost of the van and even including extended warranty coverage for free.
“I use a chair myself, so I have experienced having something tragic happen and having it really change your life,” he said. “Then, to have the freedom to be independent, and being able to help others have that freedom, is very rewarding.”
Hall said Monday that she and her son “just love the van.”
“We both just love it, and he loves riding in it,” she said. “It’s made things so much easier.”
Hall said she didn’t know how to really express her gratitude for such a tremendously wonderful gift, made possible by so many people.
“I just want to say how grateful I am to this community, for pitching in and doing what they did,” she said. “I want to thank the Van for Glenn Committee and Shelby County Community Charities and everybody that helped and participated and gave and…… .” She paused, then continued emotionally.
“I never realized until now how giving and loving this community is, and I am just so grateful and thankful to everyone.”