Robbie Ivey gets new van
Helping Robbie Ivey celebrate the arrival of his new van were, in front, from left, Justin Foster and Kaden Graves; in back are Emily Wolfram and Orlando Fernandez of Freedom Motors, Robbie’s mother Carrie, social worker Vicki West and head fundraiser and family friend Michelle Graves.
IRON RIVER—Just after 11 a.m. on June 9, the 2016 crystal black pearl Dodge Grand Caravan RT slowly made its way up the alley to Robbie Ivey’s home in Iron River. Inside were representatives from Freedom Motors USA, a company in Battle Creek that converts vehicles for wheelchair accessibility.
Ivey, who about a month ago celebrated his 18th birthday, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic degenerative muscle disease that has confined him to a wheelchair. As a result, the young man and his mother, Carrie, have had a tremendously difficult time creating a sense of freedom and mobility for the West Iron County senior-to-be, a freedom that is vital for a teenager his age. Not to forget how hard it’s been for Carrie to help Robbie into and out of their previous van, which was not handicapped-accessible.
So when that sparkling new van stopped near the Iveys’ garage, a dream more than two years in the making had become a reality. The Iveys now have a vehicle that can allow Robbie to experience some of the things that most 18-year-olds take for granted, like being with friends without depending on a parent.
“It’s amazing,” Robbie said, just after his first entrance into his new van. “It will help me be able to hang out with my friends more.”
“I love it,” Carrie said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The effort to obtain the vehicle began near the end of 2015. Family friend Michelle Graves took on the role of head fundraiser and together with Carrie began planning community events to help raise funds. The first such fundraiser was a Christmas cookie sale at the Windsor Center that year. Then came a chili cook-off and taco and hot dog bar fundraiser at the Tufts-Rondon VFW Post in Crystal Falls in March 2016. The third fundraiser was a haunted house in Alpha in October 2016, and the fourth was another Christmas cookie sale at Grace Covenant Church in Iron River.
Altogether, the local events raised $15,900, which was in turn matched by the Jeff Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps families affected by Duchenne who are struggling to afford special equipment, such as handicap accessible vehicles, scooters and rotating beds, through its Jeff Giving Fund.