Columnist is reaching for the stars, thankful of the help

Life is unpredictable. Sometimes you start something without knowing how it’s going to turn out. Other times, however, you find yourself having to admit you need help getting to the finish line.

You might have an idea about how to get there. You might not even think it’s too far or too steep until you’re right on the cusp of achieving something great. Then you remember what brought you to where you are — and why you waited so long to take a leap of faith.

It’s been a month since I launched my GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a wheelchair-accessible van. I didn’t know what to expect. Neither did my friends who helped me get it started. We just dove in, given the fact that I haven’t had proper transportation for the past 9 years since my mom was involved in a serious car accident in 2009.

My family has made the best of the situation, as they’ve adapted to accommodate whatever I need. More often than not, however, that means doing things differently than they normally would be done. Very few things are as simple as they seem, especially getting into a car, truck, van or any vehicle.

Not only that, but it currently takes about fifteen minutes of extra time to load me — and my 200-pound wheelchair — into the old, worn-out van that my mom has now. I’ve never been able to simply get in a car and go wherever I please, but it has gotten to the point where I don’t enjoy going anywhere as much as I used to because it takes two or three people just to get me anywhere with my chair intact.

I knew in my heart that something had to change, whether it came from my family or someone else who was willing to lend a helping hand. I also knew that I didn’t want the preparation of going somewhere to feel like a theater production — at least not any longer than it needed to be that way.

My GoFundMe campaign was started as a way to solve this problem and help me regain a sense of independence. I wasn’t prepared for what would come next, which was more than my family or I could have ever asked for.

The amount of local support we’ve gotten has been heartfelt, moving and overwhelming all at the same time. We raised over $2,900 within days of launching the campaign. The floodgates opened from there, as I received countless messages and texts from friends, family and faithful readers of my column who sent positive vibes asking how they could help.

I wasn’t expecting that. If anything, I hoped the reason behind the campaign might connect with a few people. I expected a few donations here and there, but I never imagined something like this would resonate with so many who have followed my journey — not just in the past month, but throughout my career. It truly reminds me that there are good people in the world and it inspires me to be a better person every day.

Most importantly, it motivates me to continue to use my platform as a writer for something good and uplifting. All of the love and support for my family’s mission to buy a proper handicapped accessible van has restored my faith in what it means to have a voice — and to use it when it matters the most. I’ve also been reminded of just how many people my writing has impacted.

Everyone who has donated to my GoFundMe so far has done more than they’ll ever know. You have all given more inspiration than I could hope to give you through any article I’ve written. The most flattering thing about this entire campaign is that the local community is supporting my cause in such a beautiful way — and being mindful of the fact that a van isn’t just a vehicle in this case.

I humbly ask those who are reading this to keep sharing my GoFundMe link on social media. There’s still a lot more work to be done and funds to be raised. I don’t know how long it will take to reach my goal, but every donation — big or small — is helping me regain some of my independence. Thank you for helping me reach for the stars!

Erin Kelly, 33, was born with cerebral palsy in Korea, and lives in Altoona. In addition to this column, she also writes for online publications The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Upworthy, and Real Talk Magazine. Email her at WriterWheels28 @gmail.com.

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