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Nearly $39,000 raised to buy wheelchair accessible van for Great Northern Peninsula boy

The family of 10-year-old James Manuel have a new wheelchair accessible van to help transport the child. Pictured with the new van, from left, James’ mother Tara-Lynn Manuel, James Manuel and James’ father Billy Manuel.
The family of 10-year-old James Manuel have a new wheelchair accessible van to help transport the child. Pictured with the new van, from left, James’ mother Tara-Lynn Manuel, James Manuel and James’ father Billy Manuel. - Stephen Roberts

James Manuel, 10, has Coffin-Lowry syndrome

SANDY COVE, N.L.

Generous people from across the Great Northern Peninsula and beyond have helped the family of James Manuel purchase a much-needed wheelchair accessible van.

James Manuel, 10, of Sandy Cove, was diagnosed with Coffin-Lowry syndrome as a baby. Coffin-Lowry syndrome has a wide-range of characteristic symptoms but for James it has resulted in him being unable to speak or walk, in addition to other disabilities.

Until getting the wheelchair accessible van in December, whenever James had to travel anywhere, a family member had to lift him out of his wheelchair and into a car seat.

This became more difficult as James grew older and got bigger.

But now, after a fundraising campaign that started last May, James and his parents Billy and Tara-Lynn Manuel, have the wheelchair accessible van they need to help James go to school, visit the doctor and do his newspaper route.

The James Manuel Fundraising Committee started its efforts on May 6, 2018 with a GoFundMe page.

From that time on, they raised nearly $39,000, allowing the committee to purchase the van outright.

They were also able to attain snow tires and insurance coverage on the van for a year.

A $25,000 government grant was secured in time to retrofit the van for wheelchair access.

Furthermore, a pre-planned cold plate drive brought in $3,400 and a $7,000 donation from the Claudia Cup Foundation, a children’s charity in St. John’s, resulted in more funds than they needed

Therefore, the committee says the leftover funds, a total of $4,100, will be donated back to the Claudia Cup Foundation.

According to committee member Sheila Genge, much to their disappointment, the campaign actually took off rather slowly.

However, with social media and word of mouth in the small communities on the Great Northern Peninsula, they soon discovered no task was too daunting.

People soon got on board in various ways, either through monetary donations or purchasing tickets on donated items.

They also contributed through various fundraising events that included live entertainment, a Dimes for James Collection, a highly successful bike rally, dart tournaments, card games, bake sales and more.

The committee also received donations from various businesses, the Lions Club, church organizations and others along the Great Northern Peninsula.

“We can't thank the people enough for their kindness, generosity, time and effort put into making our goal such a huge success, and in such a short time,” Genge wrote on behalf of the committee. “Because of the goodwill of people in our province, and in other parts of Canada with ties to our coast, doors are opening up for deserving children who need our support, as did young James Manuel.”

Tara-Lynn also wished to thank Colin and Jackie Way for paying for her husband’s and her father’s plane tickets to go to St. John’s and pick up the vehicle.

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