When Sondra Austin goes anywhere with her 8-year-old son, it is never a simple matter of getting into the family van.
Instead, Austin has to lift her 70-pound boy, then an even heavier wheelchair, into the vehicle.
Lukas suffers from cerebral palsy and is unable to get into the van himself. But as the boy gets older, his mother is finding it more and more difficult to carry his weight.
“Right now he is growing very quickly and it’s getting pretty difficult to keep up with that,” she said.
“We’ve fallen once or twice, putting him in…I’m just really scared that he’s going to get hurt.”
Austin said the family needs a wheelchair-accessible van. It’s an expensive solution and the family cannot afford the $55,000 pricetag. They haven’t found any government assistance to help lower the cost, and Lukas isn’t old enough to use the city’s Disabled Adult Transit System.
Instead, the family has looked to the community, hosting a fundraiser Saturday night at the Druid Pub to raise money for the van.
Local businesses have donated items to be auctioned off at the fundraiser, with all the proceeds going to the family.
More than just a way of getting around, Austin said the van would give Lukas access to the wider world.
“It’s going to be huge, we are going to be able to safely take Lukas to everyday things such as school,” she said.
“Going to a friend’s house, going to watch his sister play soccer.”
Lukas is unable to fly. His mother said the van would also allow the family to take Lukas on vacations outside of the city.
Saturday’s fundraiser comes after months of the work by the boy’s family and classmates, who have done everything from bottle drives to candy sales to help pay for the van. Austin said she has been overwhelmed by the number of people who have stepped forward to help her son.
“You sometimes need that extra little push to know you have that help and support,” she said.
The family is hoping that the fundraiser, as well as help from local charities, will allow them to buy the van near the end of March.