By Trevor Suffield
Nov. 27, 2008
Like many kids his age, Dustin Singh got to enjoy a pizza dinner with his family at his favourite restraurant last week.
While many youngsters might take such an outing for granted, Singh, 11, savoured every minute of it. That’s because until just recently such trips were very difficult for him and his family.
Singh suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. His family used to have to take him out of his wheelchair, fold up the chair in the back of their car and then place Singh inside the car.
That all changed two weeks ago when the Singhs received a brand new 2007 Chevy Uplander van with a wheelchair ramp. The van was made possible thanks to a number of community-based initiatives, including a giant garage sale and a social, that helped raise funds for the family.
The Singhs, whose story was originally chronicled in the Canstar community papers this past August, say the new vehicle has made a world of difference for their family.
Singh’s father, Ravi, said the van allows the family to be much more mobile and Dustin loves it.
“He’s enjoying it. He gets to go out a lot more,” said Ravi. “It’s so wonderful. We can just take Dustin and put him in the van and go.”
The first place Singh said he wanted to go when the family got the van was Pizza Hut.
Last week, the Singhs travelled to the Pizza Hut location at 2770 Pembina Highway to thank some of the people who played a key role in helping them. The restaurant supplied food for the event free of charge.
Family, friends and representatives from the service organizations that helped the Singhs were on-hand to celebrate the occasion. Singh’s mother, Jackie, said the family couldn’t have done it without their support.
“There were people we didn’t know dropping stuff off (for the garage sale), and they just wanted to help us to raise money for the van,” she said.
“There were kids that came in and gave us little bags of their saved up money, so we were very pleased. These kids have hearts, and now they can see what they bought.”
Chris Smokal and his family were there to celebrate as well. Smokal met the Singhs after reading their story and introduced himself to them at the garage sale.
One of Smokal’s daughters, Marie, also has cerebral palsy, so he felt an instant connection with them.
“From there, we got together and we’ve been talking, and have been friends ever since,” he said.
Smokal also helped to renovate the Singh’s kitchen, which had mould in it this past summer.
The Singhs raised $11,200 towards the purchase of the van. They also received $12,090 from the Children’s Special Services, $6,000 from the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation and $20,000 for the wheelchair ramp from President’s Choice Children’s Charities.
Chris Schollenberg, development officer for the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation, said that occasions like last week’s party are the best part of her job.
“This is where you get to see the end result, all the hard work that’s come through. And you can see the support they have, and there’s lots of love,” Schollenberg said.
Jackie admitted that it has been a difficult journey for her family to get to this point.
“It’s hard, but we have it now,” she said. “I said to my husband I never want to go through it again. But I would do it for anyone else that needs the help.