MARIETTA - Twin brothers Jacob and Ryan Hill of Marietta are trying collect as many votes as possible in the hopes of winning a wheelchair accessible van they say would make their lives a whole lot easier.
Jacob and Ryan, 14, were diagnosed at the age of 2 with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive disease that eventually affects all voluntary muscles.
Though they walked up to the ages of 7 and 8, respectively, and played tee ball in their youth the boys eventually came to need wheelchairs.
Photo by Jasmine Rogers
Twins Jacob, left, and Ryan Hill, right, show new friend Harmony Smith, 14, of Waverly how they use the McDonald’s WiFi to cast a vote in the Mobility Awareness Month contest to win a wheelchair accessible van. The 14-year-old Hills, who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy, are using a 2000 Dodge Ram without a wheelchair lift to transport them and their electronic wheelchairs, but are hoping to accumulate enough votes to win a new van.
"It was a bittersweet milestone," said their mother, Christy Hill, 40, of the day the boys first got their electronic wheelchairs.
But for the boys, who are abundantly grateful for their chairs, it was like being able to walk all over again.
"It makes us more independent," said Jacob, who showed off how easily he can use the chair to adjust his height.
But the current vehicle the twins rely on for transportation from place to place is almost as old as the twins themselves.
The 2000 Dodge Ram is rear wheel drive and therefore untrustworthy in snow, said their mother. And though spacious enough to fit both chairs easily, it does not provide the easiest way to get Jacob and Ryan in and out of the van, she said.
"We don't have a lift on it. It has a ramp we pull out," she explained.
It also is not the most reliable vehicle for trips to Columbus, where the boys go two to four times a year to visit with their doctor, said Jacob, whose spinal fusion surgery in 2011 made it so he could no longer be lifted into and out of a vehicle for more frequent, albeit less independent trips
So Jacob, who Christy describes as "the little business man," took it into his own hands to enter the brothers into the contest to win a van during the second annual Mobility Awareness Month.
Jacob and Ryan are encouraging people to find them on www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com and vote once a day from as many IP addresses as possible.
"You can vote at home, or at work, or if you go to McDonald's or somewhere with WiFi," explained Jacob, a bit of a computer expert.
The boys and their family members also run a Facebook page, A Worthy Cause!, to help spread the word.
"This van would really help us," said Jacob, who dreams of using it to visit the beach for the first time.
Ryan also has a place he has always wanted to visit and would be able to with a new van.
"I'd go see the Steelers play," he said.
A new van would also allow the twins to simply lead a more active day to day life, said Christy.
"We like to go to the mall and drive around the stores and go to movies. We're really outgoing," said Jacob.
That was evident when the boys were approached in McDonald's by 13-year-old Harmony Smith, of Waverly, W.Va. who wanted to know what Jacob was doing on his laptop.
Jacob eagerly showed Smith the contest website and she excitedly asked to join their Facebook page too.
"This is cool. I'll make sure I show all the people back at my school," said Smith.