Strangers help Alberta family in need buy wheelchair accessible van

WATCH ABOVE: After learning a young girl lost her ability to walk and talk after contracting rotavirus, members of an Alberta community rallied together to get the girl's family a wheelchair accessible van. Sarah Kraus has the story.

A family from Pickardville, Alta. is now able to drive their ill daughter to all of her medical appointments, thanks to the kindness of strangers.

When Arianna turned one, her pediatrician recommended she get the rotavirus vaccine. But in 2014, the vaccine wasn’t covered by Alberta healthcare.

Arianna’s mom, Charlene Curtis, said she had to choose between a month’s worth of groceries or buying the rotavirus vaccine.

“I figured, how bad can it be? I’ve never heard of it before,” Curtis said.

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READ MORE: West Kelowna family gifted with wheelchair accessible van

The illness causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea. According to Alberta Health Services, 95 per cent of kids in the province get the virus before they turn six. But in Arianna’s case, it was nearly deadly.

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She went from being a healthy toddler to someone who couldn’t talk, eat or walk. Arianna is now five years old and as she gets older, transporting her has become more of a challenge.

Curtis said she hasn’t been able to afford her own vehicle for 15 years. She was constantly looking for rides for her daughter.

“I was prioritizing — which medical appointment is more important than the other ones? Can I put off the pediatrician to see the nutritionist?”

In a story with Global News, Curtis asked for help in getting a wheelchair accessible van.

The Westlock Elks heard about Arianna’s plight and jumped into action.

“We just knew there was a really big need and it just seemed like a really good cause. We were just wanting to help,” treasurer Dolores English said.

“I’m a mother, and a grandmother as well and this could happen to any family. This is a health situation that went bad.”

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Strangers rallied to donate money or items for a garage sale and it quickly added up.

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“We were able to get the van, we were able to get two years of insurance for it. We got a really good warranty and we were able to get winter tires,” English said.

Curtis said she couldn’t be happier with the new ride.

“I don’t have to lift her into the old van anymore! Just in and out of bed now. And I don’t have to lift up that ridiculously heavy wheelchair anymore,” Curtis exclaimed.

“It’s just going to be great that we can just wheel her in and out.”

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As Arianna starts kindergarten, the van will mean more outings.

“It means she’s going to get to go to all of the family reunions and family events and she won’t miss a medical appointment,” her mother said.

Other donations came from GoFundMe, President’s Choice Children’s Charity, the Children’s Ability Fund, the Good Neighbour Fund, the Dawn Land Foundation and the Alberta Trappers’ Association.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” English said.

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“It’s always a wonderful feeling when you help someone — even just in little ways.”

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