Hundreds of people from all over the country reached out to me over the past months in hopes of winning the 2012 Honda Odyssey VMI Conversion van that Steve Rayman Chevrolet donated to me almost seven years ago on Katie Couric’s talk show. About 60 of them sent a completed application with the required supporting documents.
I read every essay, and wish I had 60 Vans to give away. Every applicant desperately needs this van, but only a handful emphasized helping others and paying it forward in their essay. A panel of judges from FODAC and AMS Vans voted for the most compelling essay, ultimately selecting a young woman from Athens, GA.
Kendra Allen is a motivated, courageous, and compassionate woman who I believe will use this gift to touch the lives of others. You can read her essay below.
I’m so grateful to FODAC and AMS Vans for making this give away possible. A huge thanks also goes out to everyone who applied. I will be presenting Kendra with her new van on March 7 at 10 am at AMS Vans in Tucker, GA. The news media is invited to hear Kendra and I speak about how this experience has impacted us. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Kendra! It is my honor to pass the van, my beloved “Sylvia,” to such a deserving recipient.
What Having A Van Will Mean to Me
It is frustrating to try to do things in the community because I have no way to transport my power chair. I was born with cerebral palsy. In high school I was provided a power wheelchair to get to my classes. The school transported it to school and back. After graduating high school, I enrolled at Athens Tech. I cannot use my power chair because we have no van. My mother brings the manual chair because it is easier for my outings. I can roll it, but I am limited to how far I can go with it.
After getting my degree in Business Technology I want to get a job and eventually open my own business. I want to become an entrepreneur of my own foundation. I will need to get out in the community to meet other entrepreneurs and potential clients. I am also limited socially for the same reason. Being able to use my power chair will give me more mobility and tremendous freedom.
I want to create businesses that will benefit others with disabilities in some way. I am considering various options as I observe people with both different and similar disabilities as mine. I realize that the needs are many. For example, there are medical transports available to pick up recipients for medical appointments, but who will pick them up to go shopping or spend time with friends? A special taxi service to accommodate these people is a much-needed service, and more so if they live a distance out of town. Another obstacle I see to independence is getting dressed. I have difficulty with buttons and other small fasteners. I want to design, or hire a designer, to bring my vision to life for people with unique abilities.
An idea I have been mulling around, also, is designing a retreat for people with various abilities. Everyone needs a break from the world sometimes. A retreat can be both fun and informative. It is a chance to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones. It can teach new skills for self-help. It can continue to reinforce old skills. A retreat could be for one or two weeks at a time. It should have a therapeutic area, including a spa. Guest speakers will make appearances to bring motivation. Therapists and dieticians can give individual advice. Many support people will be very beneficial.
I have also thought about becoming a travel agent, arranging vacation packages. I will need to find places that are accessible to accommodate the various needs of people. I like to vacation at the beach and get away with family, but sometimes that can be tough for us. We don’t always know before-hand if I can get into a place or do certain activities with them.
Mostly I want to inspire people because it is empowering. Whatever I can do with my “unique abilities” others can do the same with theirs. Anything is possible!