KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Grand Valley State University sophomore Chandler McBride continues to defy the odds.
After president of Harold Zeigler Automotive Group Aaron Zeigler saw McBride’s story, he called FOX 17 and wanted to help.
On Thursday, Zeigler and a mobility team gave McBride the keys to his brand new custom-converted wheelchair-accessible minivan.
McBride, from Three Rivers, was paralyzed after a freak accident in high school. His family’s wheelchair-accessible van was on its last legs, and he needed a way to get to school.
Holding the keys to his custom-fit van, McBride told FOX 17, “It doesn’t get better than this.”
“I saw a story that FOX 17 did, and I was laid up myself at the time,” said Zeigler. “I saw the story, and I was just mesmerized by what an unbelievable attitude that Chandler had. Instantly, I felt the need to try to help him out.”
“It’s a huge blessing, and I really want to thank Aaron and the entire Zeigler crew," said McBride. “The whole deal is just amazing. Everyone here in this building is awesome.”
McBride is a true go-getter. Two-and-a-half years after a swimming pool accident left him paralyzed, he has never let his prognosis define him. He is getting stronger, takes most of his notes at GVSU himself, and he says his new van will play a big part in living independently.
He studies statistics and finance. He just finished finals and is ready to celebrate his Christmas that came early.
“It’ll be nice to see how final grades turn out and get ready for, well I guess I can’t wait a little while for next semester, but I’ll be ready when that comes,” said McBride.
Everything about the van will make a difference, he said, "the way the doors open, the way the ramp comes out, the way the space inside, everything. It’s like a night and day difference."
Experts at Braun Ability and Clock Mobility said McBride’s van is a full extra-tall conversion that cost about $24,000.
With two clicks of a button, the van’s side door opens as the van kneels closer to the ground= and the ramp comes out. Then, with an EZ Lock docking system, McBride will automatically lock his wheelchair in place.
The next step for McBride is to get a driver evaluation to see which kind of hand controls he can use to eventually be able to sit behind the wheel and drive his van.
Chandler’s family says their current wheelchair-accessible van needs some work. They plan to donate that van in hopes of helping someone else.