Holland woman receives wheelchair-accessible van, national winner

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HOLLAND, Mich. – A Holland woman received her keys to her brand new wheelchair-accessible van Thursday, after winning a national promotion.

Collene Van Noord is one of four winners this year, part of the annual Local Hero promotion during National Mobility Awareness Month during May. The company National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) gives away four custom-fit wheelchair-accessible vans in honor of people with disabilities giving to their community.

Van Noord received her keys to her brand new Toyota van in a ceremony at Crown Motors Thursday. She said after her sister watched FOX 17’s report on the promotion back in May, she entered the promotion and won.

A retired school superintendent, Van Noord said teaching is her passion. A little more than six months after retiring, she was in a bad car accident that left her partially paralyzed. Now she blogs about her spinal cord injury in hopes to compile resources, raise awareness, educate, and inspire others.

Van Noord said she is grateful to everyone and all companies, including NMEDA, Toyota, Braun Ability, and Clock Mobility, which donated the mobility equipment for her van. Van Noord said this is giving back her independence.

“It’s hard to put it into words: certainly very grateful to the people that donated, to the people that voted, to friends and family that backed us up, friends of friends are actually here,” said Van Noord. “It’s just amazing.”

Van Noord earned the top ten-percent of votes out of more than 600 entries across the country this year. She is the first person from West Michigan to win the National Mobility Awareness Month’s Local Hero promotion, which is in its fourth year.

“It’ll be an ability for us to get out way more easily than we have in the past, to do some things more independently,” said Van Noord. “It’s important for families to have independent interests and common interests, and without this it was almost impossible to have the independent.”

She and her husband named her van, “Van Gough.”

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