The first phase of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) Mobility Awareness Month van contest came to a close Sunday. We received official word today that indeed Oscar is in the top 10%, which is where he needs to be to enter the next and final phase of the contest. Everyone who is in the top 10% (approximately 170 people) will now be considered to win one of three vans. A panel will review the profiles of each entrant and choose the three they feel have the highest need and the most compelling story. I don’t envy the people on this panel. If you haven’t taken the time to read or watch the profiles of some of the other entrants, we encourage you to do so here. The winners will be notified in the coming weeks, with a public announcement coming in early June.

We are humbled by the outpouring of support Oscar has received throughout this contest, from near and far. Last week NMEDA sent out a message saying that in order to be in the top 10% an entrant would need to have over 5,000 votes. At the close of the voting Oscar had 20,870 votes! You are all amazing. We cannot thank you enough. The experience of this contest has far exceeded what we could have imagined. Oscar has enjoyed “checking the votes” with us as we read off the incomprehensibly large numbers to him. At the start of the contest, as I was glued to the computer screen, trying to get the word out, Oscar would ask, “What’s mama doing in the office? Trying to get my van?” We have tried to emphasize to him that there are many, many people who need a van just as much as he does.

Gathering votes has been only a part of this contest. May is National Mobility Awareness Month and our top goal in this process has become raising awareness for mobility issues and for SMA. We are stunned by the media coverage our family has received. In the last ten days Oscar has appeared in the Brighton-Pittsford Post (click here to view the story and a video), on WHEC channel 10 news (view here), in a blog for the Democrat & Chronicle (read here), and on channel 13 WHAM news (watch here). These stories have highlighted our family’s participation in the NMEDA van contest. In all of our interactions with the media we have tried to emphasize the importance of raising awareness for disability issues and for SMA. In addition, there are over a dozen other entrants in the Rochester area who we feel deserve media coverage as well.

Indeed we entered this contest to try to win a wheelchair accessible van. The need is significant. The more time that passes with Oscar using his power chair at home, and the more often we take Oscar out into the community in his manual chair or in his stroller, the more we wish we had a van that would enable Oscar to interact independently with his environment.  But thousands of other people also need wheelchair accessible vans. As the contest has gone on, and the media coverage has built up, that goal of raising awareness has become far more important to us than the goal of winning a van. Who are we to say that our family deserves a van more than any other? The need is vast.

Thank you for helping us spread the word. Keep it up. Encourage your family and friends to view the profiles of the entrants in the van contest. Check back here now and again to see what Oscar is up to. We feel so lucky to be surrounded by a community that is willing to come together for a good cause. A community that exists here within Rochester, but also a community that knows no geographic boundaries. We have found unexpected overlaps of people who know each other within our community. And our community has grown in recent weeks to include people we’ve never met. Our gratitude runs deep. We feel blessed by your presence in Oscar’s life.