Westborough – 2011 was a difficult year for Westborough resident Jim Gingras. After a motorcycle accident in late June, he received multiple injuries which resulted in him becoming paralyzed from the waist down. But thanks to the generosity of a Colorado organization, “Wheels for Disabled Veterans,” Gingras now has a nearly new powered wheelchair, and with that, a reason to look forward to the new year.
After spending several months in the hospital, Gingras finally was able to return in September to the Westborough home he shares with his wife Rachel and their two sons, Avery, 13, and Aiden, 9 months. The family had moved into the home several years ago to help his mother, Joann, who has Multiple Sclerosis, after her husband passed away from complications from the same disease in 2007.
Recently Gingras” sister-in-law, Brandy Duff, who lives in Colorado, happened to see an article in a local newspaper there about an organization, “Wheels for Disabled Veterans”. The organization, which was founded by Air Force veteran Jack Levinson, matches up disabled veterans with donated used and new power wheelchairs and motor scooters. Duff contacted Levinson to see if Gingras (who had served a stint in the Army himself) might qualify for the program.
Levinson approved her request and then quickly set plans in motion. He arranged for a power wheelchair to be shipped to Massachusetts on Dec. 28 and then flew out to make the presentation to Gingras Dec. 30.
The chair, which runs on special batteries, is valued at $38,000. It had only been used for a short time by another man before he passed away so it is in excellent condition.
Levinson said he was “thrilled” to arrange for Gingras to receive the chair. But he was just as quick to deflect all compliments, instead noting that many others had helped make the donation possible.
“I just make the phone calls,” he said.
Those phone calls had resulted in not only getting the wheelchair donated from the previous owner's family but also getting the special crate in which it was shipped, a commitment from Federal Express to ship the chair for free and a donation of two batteries (valued at $800 each) to power the chair.
“But the hardest part, believe it or not,” Levinson said, “is finding veterans who need our help. There are a lot of privacy laws plus [the veterans] are so private themselves. They are hurting but don's want to ask for help. ”
There are only two requirements for the program, he said – one must be a veteran and must have mobility issues.
“My goal is to help local veterans groups, like the American Legion and VFW, get a plan in place like this one,” he said. “It's all about local groups helping local veterans.”
Also attending the presentation at the Gingras home were Denzil Drewry, a regional representative from Sen. Scott Brown's office, George Perry, the Westborough Veterans Agent, and members of the Vincent F. Picard Post 234 American Legion in Northborough and the VFW Post 9013 in Westborough.
Although Gingras” life has changed significantly since his accident, he said he is looking forward to having a bit more independence now that he has a new chair to use.
“It's amazing,” he said. “This will help me to be able to go outside and just hang out with my son, Aiden. That's what I am most looking forward to. Everyone has been so nice. I am just so thankful for all the support.”
For more information on “Wheels for Disabled Veterans” call Levinson at 303-666-4522 or 720-938-4993 or email [email protected].