Contest could help teen in need of handicap accessible van

Contest could help teen in need of handicap accessible van
(Source: KPLC)
(Source: KPLC)

OBERLIN, LA (KPLC) - For 14-year-old Zachary Villareal and his family, going anywhere is a challenge.

The teen suffered a cardiac arrest two-and-a-half years ago. Since then, he has been wheelchair-bound.

Now, the once healthy, vibrant, athletic boy, can't eat, talk, or walk on his own.  Zachary's father, Tony Villareal, now must pick up this 165-pound teen from his wheelchair and put him into his truck in order to go anywhere, including therapy visits and doctors' appointments.

"I get him out of the chair, literally just lift him up and I'll put him in there," said Tony.

Zachary continues to grow. The Villareals have looked into purchasing a handicap accessible van, but said they can't afford it. Rae Villareal, his mother,  said a van like this isn't a want - it's now a need.

"Tony picks Zachary up like a newborn. He just scoops him up and then, he has to maneuver his body into the vehicle. So to see him do that, it's for both of them - it's for both of them," said Rae. "It's not just about a want, it's about a physical and health need when it comes to Tony as a caregiver."

It's a priority to keep Zachary active, but it's started to take a toll on his father's back. That's why Rae entered the family in an online local heroes contest as part of National Mobility Awareness month in hopes of winning a handicap accessible van.

"That kid would be a road runner all over again. He already is; we like going places, but we literally have to wait for Tony to be off. Even simple things like going to church; if Tony is not here, we have to cut that," said Rae.

"He'll be able to go places and not just wait on me on my days off to go places. He'll be able to go any time with my mom, his mom," said Tony.

For this growing teen and his family, having a handicap accessible vehicle is becoming more of a necessity.

If the Villareals win this contest, they'll receive a handicap accessible minivan for free through the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. Already, they've received overwhelming support with more than 11,000 votes. Voting ends May 31.

To vote for the Villareals, click HERE.

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