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Traveling with Harper has always been an endeavor, but as she approaches 75 pounds, I feel the literal and figurative weight of transporting her. Despite our wonderful support system, I am the only one physically able to transfer Harper as well as break down and load her 65-pound wheelchair into the trunk of our current vehicle. Not only is the process inconvenient and time consuming, but due to her partial bilateral hip dislocation and low bone density, it is increasingly unsafe for Harper.

We’ve always known that eventually we would need a wheelchair accessible van for Harper. Over the last two years Harper’s health has improved so much that we are finally able to experience a world outside of Kansas City; but the further we go from home, the more apparent it is how much we need a new vehicle.

Last year we went on our first family vacation to visit family in Pennsylvania. I knew that a plane ride with a child who requires an inordinate amount of equipment and supplies would be an endeavor and I expected that finding a rental vehicle and appropriate lodging would take some effort. But I never anticipated that our biggest hurdle would be simply getting to the airport. My small SUV simply wasn’t large enough to transport our family and our luggage with Harper’s wheelchair taking up all the trunk space. After many phone calls, we were finally able to secure a ride to and from the airport with a generous family who had an accessible van. But the true “A-HA” moment came when we arrived in Philadelphia and located our rental vehicle; a wheelchair accessible van for us to use for four whole days.

Normally, taking Harper to the zoo, a restaurant, or even on a simple trip to the grocery store takes an incredible amount of effort and planning. But we were able to do all those things while we were on vacation with ease and efficiency because we had a vehicle that truly accommodated our family.

The experience made it obvious how much transportation barriers affect Harper’s quality of life. Harper is so much more than her disabilities and I want to give her opportunities to experience the world around her in fun and exciting ways; not just leaving the house for grueling therapies or to sit in a doctor’s office. I am already looking forward to all the places our family will be able to go in our new van, including the park, swimming, community events, family functions, and of course, our next big adventure: a family vacation in Florida courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation!


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