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Originally published: 2014-03-27 11:00:47
Last modified: 2014-03-27 12:28:50

Vote for Jay Erwin: Online contest to award wheelchair accessible van

by Sherrie Norris

Jay Erwin needs a wheelchair accessible van -- and The High Country community has a chance to help meet his need through an online contest.

On Sunday, March 2, The Watauga Democrat featured a story about Jay Erwin, who, in August 2013, was critically injured when a tree he was cutting knocked him to the ground. The incident left Erwin with multiple injuries and resulted in paralysis, from his waist down.

Following months of surgeries and intense therapy, Erwin returned to his Deep Gap home with his wife and children, in late December. 

Just recently - and defying the odds - Erwin returned to his job, on a limited basis, at Blue Ridge Electric Membership Cooperative in Boone. 

Initially, transferring in and out of his family vehicle was difficult and time-consuming for Erwin and his family, and required the use of a Hoyer lift.

After researching the possibilities of purchasing a van, which would allow him wheelchair accessibilities - as well as the opportunity to drive again using hand controls - the once physically fit and active Erwin, and his wife, Lisa, decided they could not afford such a luxury. 

They chose, instead, to purchase a Subaru, which allows him easier access than before, but is still not the ideal situation.

The Watauga Democrat has just learned that Erwin has been entered into an online contest for a chance to win an accessible van, something that would make a tremendous difference in his life.The contest kicked off in late February in Tampa, Fla., and will end in early May, which is Mobility Awareness Month. 

 The event is hosted by the nonprofit organization known as the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.

NMEDA is dedicated to expanding mobility options for people with disabilities. This marks its third year of what has been described as a successful annual contest in which three deserving "local heroes" will be awarded a wheelchair accessible vehicle tailored to meet their needs.

National Mobility Awareness Month is dedicated to showing the world how people with disabilities can live active, mobile lifestyles with the help of adaptive mobility equipment.

Major sponsors providing the vehicles for the 2014 contest are Chrysler and Toyota. 

Toyota Motor Sales USA will be providing two Siennas this year to be customized by NMEDA Members BraunAbility and Vantage Mobility International (VMI). 

Chrysler Group LLC is providing a Dodge Caravan for conversion.

"It is rewarding to work on such an important project each year that literally changes the lives of people with inspirational life stories," said Dave Hubbard, executive director and CEO of NMEDA. "It is their contributions and triumphs we recognize and celebrate through our Local Heroes contest." 

Hubbard earlier encouraged caregivers, friends and family members to submit entries, either written or videotaped stories of how they are triumphing over their mobility challenges.

Story submissions began on Feb. 25; voting began March 11.  

Votes will be accepted through May 9, with winners announced soon afterward.

In 2013, 1,225 entries received more 2.3 million votes that resulted in three deserving "local heroes" from Lexington, Ky., Villa Park, Ill., and Victoria, British Columbia Canada, being awarded fully customized wheelchair accessible vehicles.

The 2014 National Mobility Awareness Month is supported by prominent spokemen and advocates for those with disabilities, including Mike Savicki and Ashley Lauren Fisher.  

Make your vote count

To help Erwin win a van, visit the following website: Follow the prompts to register your name, email address, and enter Jay Erwin's name as your "local hero." 

For a more simplified voting procedure, go to Then click on the blue Facebook icon, register and vote in one step using the "sweepstakes" app.)

Every email address will be allowed to vote once in a 24-hour period, plus an extra vote is given with each correct answer to a new question, every day. 

Erwin's story (and more information about the contest) is available on his Facebook page, on the contest website and at

About National Mobility Awareness Month 

May is National Mobility Awareness Month and is the annual celebration that encourages seniors, veterans, caregivers and people with disabilities to enjoy active, mobile lifestyles. Founded in 1989 as a not-for-profit trade association, the NMEDA supports the awareness month with the assistance of approximately 600 mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers and driver rehabilitation specialists located in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities. 


The organization promotes and supports members engaged in the modification of quality transportation and wheelchair accessible vehicles.

 More than 600 international members work to provide safe and reliable adapted transportation solutions to help build the road to independence. Transportation is the key to freedom and NMEDA is the key to quality transportation.