Winning a new van could change Dawn Zubrenic’s life.
The DeMotte woman has two daughters, 13-year-old Allison and 11-year-old Audrey, who have cerebral palsy.
Allison uses a motorized wheelchair, which needs to be strapped down into the family van. Audrey uses a regular wheelchair and needs to be lifted into the front seat of the van.
Zubrenic said after Audrey was born with cerebral palsy, a pediatrician told her she had a better chance of winning the lottery twice in one week than having two children born with cerebral palsy.
“The chances are astronomical,” she said.
The family van, a 1999 Ford Econolodge, has about 160,000 miles on it, Zubrenic said. It has no heat and no air conditioning, and the power locks don’t work.
It breaks down regularly, leaving the family stranded on trips to their Schererville physical therapy appointments and Chicago doctor’s appointments.
Both girls also participate in special needs cheerleading in winter and special needs baseball in the spring.
“If the van goes down, we can’t do anything. I’m trying to give my two daughters as normal life as possible,” she said. “But there are only so many things they can be involved with, and everything is an hour away.
"This van could give me the freedom to take my daughters places safely.”
One of her daughters’ physical therapists suggested Zubrenic enter the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association’s Local Heroes contest, in which four families can win a van that is built to the specifications of the wheelchair users.
Zubrenic is one of a half dozen region families entered in the contest. The contest is part of National Mobility Awareness Month. Voting ends May 9.
Other local families include:
Mimi Burke, of Crown Point: Burke’s 12-year-old daughter, Sophia Burns, suffers from a rare disease known as Rett syndrome. The disease, predominantly found in females, is a mutation on the X chromosome. Sophia is fed intravenously, battles seizures and has daily breathing treatments.
Tom Hadt, of Schererville: Hadt has a polycystic astrocytoma brain tumor and has had numerous brain surgeries. His first three were in 2007. He then spent the next six years learning to walk and talk again. The tumor began growing again, and he lost his mobility within weeks. In October 2013, he had two more brain surgeries, according to his profile on the contest website.
Karla Pettett, of Valparaiso: Pettett’s daughter Kara, 13, has holopresencephaly, which means her brain did not separate into a left and right hemisphere. She is blind, has some hearing loss and has daily seizures, according to her contest profile.
Tina Olivo, of Portage: Olivo’s 21-year-old daughter, Jasmine, was born prematurely at 30 weeks and has severe mental handicap, autism, seizure disorder, lung disease, hydrocephalus and is nonverbal, according to the contest website.
Leanna Marie Madison, of Hammond: Madison’s daughter, Kylie Madison, was born with medical issues including chromosome depletion, pyloric stenosis, coloboma and hip dysphasia. She has had multiple surgeries but still is unable to walk, talk or feed herself, according to the contest profile.