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Albany family raising funds for special-needs van

A family with two autistic children have a campaign ongoing for new vehicle

The Hall family of Albany is on the Fragile Kids Foundation waiting list to get a van that can be equipped with a wheelchair lift for their two autistic children. From left are parents Scott Hall and Dawn Hall with their children, son Tifton, 18, and daughter, Bethany, 14. (Submitted photo)

The Hall family of Albany is on the Fragile Kids Foundation waiting list to get a van that can be equipped with a wheelchair lift for their two autistic children. From left are parents Scott Hall and Dawn Hall with their children, son Tifton, 18, and daughter, Bethany, 14. (Submitted photo)

ALBANY — Traveling with children can be difficult under any circumstance, but often even more so for a family with two children with developmental disabilities.

Scott and Dawn Hall of Albany have learned that from firsthand experience.

The Halls are currently on the Fragile Kids Foundation waiting list to receive a van equipped with a wheelchair lift to help transport their autistic children, son, Tifton, 18, and daughter, Bethany, 14.

“Tifton can’t do anything, I have to completely transfer him (from one place to another),” said Dawn Hall. “Bethany can walk a few feet and that’s about it. Neither can talk.”

With the family’s current arrangement, they are in an older van for which they have to tear down two wheelchairs and put them back together again every time they ride in the vehicle. The current mode of transportation they have cannot be converted. A used van to fit their needs would cost $30,000-$40,000, while a new one would be around $50,000-$60,000.

“They ride in the car every day and go to doctor appointments in Pensacola (Fla.),” their mother said. “Tifton goes (to the doctor) every three to four months, and Bethany goes every six months. I’m usually taking them by myself. (A used van would be acceptable), but if we could raise money for a new van, that would be better.”

Dawn Hall said she was connected to Fragile Kids by friend Carol Hollomon, the mother of the late Megan Hollomon for whom the respite care home Megan’s House is named. Hollomon helped Hall get connected through the application process.

Now a stay-at-home mom with a husband working in Valdosta, Hall said she has found that — with all the extra money going to other supplies her children need — even more help is needed with making the larger investments.

“(Sometimes) you need help from the community to get you there,” she said. “… Families just need help from others.

“We would like to get this van as soon as we can. If the community helps, it would be an awesome Christmas present.”

From a quality of life standpoint, a new vehicle would help all four family members.

“I think from a quality-of-life standpoint, (it would help to), enjoy getting out in public,” Dawn Hall said. “(The children) are almost to the point they are not out in society as much, especially now that they are bigger. When they were smaller, it was easier. (Scott and I) are getting older, and our backs can’t take it (the lifting).”

Fragile Kids is an organization that serves the entire state, with a focus on helping families of children with neuromuscular disabilities get the supplies they need — chief among them being wheelchair lifts and ramps.

“(The foundation works to) bridge the growing gap between what doctors prescribe what and (health coverage) doesn’t pay for,” said Carolyn Polakowski, executive director of Fragile Kids. “It is a wide gap.”

The one thing these families have in common is that they all have supplies they cannot afford, prompting the foundation to meet such needs on a permanent or temporary basis depending on what the circumstances are for that particular family. Due to the growing need, there is a struggle to keep up with the Fragile Kids waiting list, which now includes roughly 50 children.

“We are trying to get people off the waiting list during the holidays,” Polakowski said.

The Hall family was initially approved for up to $5,000 for a lift. Previously, Fragile Kids had not been in a place to fund a whole van. In this case, officials are hoping enough will be raised to at least get a quality used van — which is roughly $30,000.

While Fragile Kids serves the state as a whole, Polakowski said it can be harder to communicate to people living in rural areas due to their being fewer resources — but the need is never-ending.

“(Some) people don’t get it. (In that situation), you can’t have a home without a handicap accessible vehicle, and it is very expensive,” she said. “… All parents want their kids to be safe and independent, it is just more expensive for those families to meet those goals.

“Our families we serve are awesome, and just appreciative.”

The direct link to the Fragile Kids donation page is https://fragilekids.ejoinme.org/MyPages/DonationPage/tabid/39176/Default.aspx. There is a line specifying where donors wish for the money to go to for those wanting to contribute funds to the Hall family.