MARIETTA - Independence is the goal for a group of area residents in an online contest to win a brand-new accessible van in recognition of Mobility Awareness Month.
And although they're all competing for votes, the annual contest sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. After all, there are three contestants from Marietta - and at least three vans will be awarded.
"How nice would that be!" said Terrie Lincoln, 35.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Marietta resident Darla Brannan, left, watches as her daughters, Gracyn, center, and McKenzie swing in their yard.
Lincoln found out about the competition from a family member who attends church with twin brothers Jacob and Ryan Hill, also of Marietta. Lincoln went to the website and voted for the 14-year-olds, then wound up entering herself.
Winning a van would not only broaden Lincoln's job prospects, it would open doors for her 2-year-old daughter, Khloe.
"It's hard to let her get involved in dancing, gymnastics, anything," Lincoln said. "I feel like she's also kind of suffering from the lack of transportation."
An automobile accident in 1998 broke Lincoln's neck and severed her spine. Although her mobility is extremely limited, she worked, had an accessible apartment and could get where she wanted using the paratransit system when she lived in Rochester, N.Y.
A family emergency brought Lincoln and her daughter back to Marietta, and while she loves the historic town, her mobility is more limited. The Community Action Van only runs until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
She and Khloe like to go to the playground when the weather's nice, but that means a trek across the Williamstown Bridge, a sometimes daunting prospect with a 2-year-old.
Like Lincoln, Marietta resident Darla Brannan has always tried to do as much on her own as possible. She expects getting a van she can drive herself would be comparable to when she received her power wheelchair as a teenager.
"It was like I was just off the leash. I was like a little kid learning to ride a bike," said Brannan, 25.
Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 2 at age 5, she used a walker until age 8 and was able to get around her family's two-story house by crawling until she had scoliosis surgery at age 13. Three years ago, she got her driver's license, but the modifications she would need to make a van usable would cost about $70,000. She's tried to raise money through yard sales and a cookbook toward the cost, but hasn't made much progress. She has a website, www.darlabrannanvan.com.
Brannan entered the van giveaway contest last year with less than a month to go and is hoping for a better showing this time around.
Currently, she has a 1995 van with a lift, but there's only 2 or 3 inches between the top of her head and the ceiling and it hasn't been modified for her to drive. The mother of two girls - ages 5 and 3 - relies on family members and aides paid for by the Washington County Board of Developmental Disabilities to help her get around.
Voting for the contest continues until May 10. People can vote once per day and view entrants' stories at www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com