By Ryan Horne
Ashton Strohm loves to watch cartoons in the morning with his mother. This day is no different. But, even with a warm, glowing smile from watching Cat in the Hat, young Ashton could really use some help.
He has cerebral palsy. A brain and nervous system disorder that has restricted him to a wheelchair and has affected his ability to walk, talk, eat and live the life of a normal seven-year-old boy.
Now the Strohm family hopes to raise enough money to purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle through the Pennies for Ashton fundraiser campaign.
“As he grows, it’s getting a lot harder,” said his mother, Sharon, in an interview at their Guelph home.
It all started when the family entered a contest to win one of three wheelchair-accessible vehicles from the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association as part of National Mobility Awareness Month in April.
Ashton’s story received enough votes to be included in the top ten per cent of the 1,700 who applied for the special vehicles in North America. The top ten per cent were then scrutinized by a group of judges to see which three cases deserved the vehicles the most. Ashton finished in ninth place.
This was just the beginning. After the contest, Sharon’s parents discovered a big jar of pennies when they were getting ready to move and thought it would be a great idea to start a fundraiser for Ashton.
And Pennies for Ashton was born.
The fundraiser started two weeks ago, and Sharon said approximately $2,000 has been raised so far. It costs $60,000 for a wheelchair- accessible vehicle.
“A lot of families that have kids like Ashton can’t afford something like that,” she said. “I mean, who can?”
Ashton sits in a car seat when he’s in the van, as his 150-pound wheelchair is cumbersome to lift. He uses a tracheostomy to breathe, and it can sometimes be covered or completely pulled out by the seat.
“You have to pull over and hope you can get it back in,” said his mother.
A wheelchair-accessible van would change everything for the one- income family, which also has a 10-month-old son named Lachlan.
Ashton was born pre-mature at 24 weeks, weighing only one pound, nine ounces, and spent his first nine months in a hospital. He needs a feeding tube to eat. Sharon has been home with Ashton since he was born.
The family has applied twice for funding for an accessible vehicle from March of Dimes, a community-based rehabilitation and advocacy charity for people with physical disabilities, but were denied both times because they said Ashton’s case does not meet their criteria.
“If he doesn’t meet it, I don’t know who does,” said Sharon.
A representative from the March of Dimes Home and Vehicle Modification Program said that they could not discuss Ashton’s specific case due to privacy issues. They did say that they have hundreds of applications from Ontarians for funding and they simply do not have enough money to give to everybody.
Ashton has received doctor notes from respirologists and nurse practitioners, as well as ear, nose and throat doctors who all say that he should be sitting in a wheelchair while in a car.
“How’s he supposed to sit anywhere else besides his wheelchair?” said Sharon.
Ashton will be heading into Grade 2 in the fall. His mother said that even though he can’t talk and has to be accompanied by a nurse, Ashton is learning and enjoys being there.
“He loves school; he would go on the weekends if he could,” she said.
Donations to Pennies for Ashton can be picked up or dropped off. For pickup, call Lucy at 226-820-5676 or Dianne at 519-822-0542. Donations can be dropped off at Brock Road Garage, 1483 Gordon St. S., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday, or Mark’s Auto Shop, 715 Speedvale Ave. W., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday.
An account has also been set up for Ashton at TD Canada Trust in Guelph.