New Hope to Get Paralyzed Boy a Van: How You Can Help

Zakkary Smith needs a handicapped-accessible van to travel to doctor's appointments and to fun places too. Here's how you can help.They sent messages of support from New Zealand … from South Africa … from Chile … from Turkey … from all over Europe … and of course, from right here in the United States.

The mother of Zakkary Smith put together a map showing places her son’s story has reached, and the number of countries represented is extraordinary.

“You have all been a part of something amazing,” Arlaeeh Galindo wrote on the Facebook page, Zakk’s Wheels, last month. “(N)ot only did you help spread Zakk’s story around the world, but also help spread mobility awareness.”

Now Galindo, of Moreno Valley, Calif., and her family and friends hope Zakk’s newfound supporters will help them do what a recent contest didn’t — get a wheelchair-accessible van to help Zakkary travel to doctor’s appointments and also take fun trips to superhero movies, Griffith Observatory, and other places that bring a smile to his face.

The 6-year-old boy was left totally paralyzed by a car accident in 2012. I first wrote about Zakk in April, after his mother entered him in a contest to win a customized van sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. Though at least three media outlets — including this one — covered Zakk’s story and thousands cast votes in support of the boy, ultimately he was not selected to be among the contest’s four winners.

When it was clear late last week that Zakk didn’t win, Galindo said her heart was broken, as were the hearts of many of Zakk’s supporters.

The good news is that there’s still a way to get Zakk a van.

The contest raised public awareness of the challenges facing many paralyzed people, including Zakk, and in a statement on its website, NMEDA offered encouragement to the hundreds who didn’t win. The group noted that at least 10 other people received van donations while the contest was ongoing and suggested that those still in need make use of crowdfunding websites.

That’s what Zakk’s support network is doing. A family friend has set up this GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $65,000 for the purchase of a handicapped-accessible van. So far, more than 500 people have donated nearly $23,000. Zakk’s mother is hopeful and grateful.

“We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts, for their very kind donation. Team Zakk’s generosity will make an immediate difference in not only Zakkary life but our family all together,” Galindo said. “You are all truly making a difference in his life.”

I’ve seen enough online fundraisers to know that after an initial burst of activity, support tends to wane and even a promising start doesn’t guarantee ultimate success. I hope Zakk and his mother find enough new supporters to reach their fundraising goal. Zakk is a cool kid. He deserves some cool wheels.



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Photo courtesy the Galindo Family.

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