Pekin resident Bradley Alexander was born with cerebral palsy. Now 13 years old, he is unable to walk and uses a wheelchair. Taking Bradley anywhere is a challenge for his mother, Karla, who has to lift him from his wheelchair into his car seat on her own before wrestling the wheelchair into the back of their van. Purchasing a lift, and a new van equipped for one, would cost between $40,000 and $80,000, Karla said, and as a single working parent, there is no way she could afford those expenses. But now someone has stepped in to help the family.
Pekin resident Bradley Alexander was born with cerebral palsy. Now 13 years old, he is unable to walk and uses a wheelchair.
Taking Bradley anywhere is a challenge for his mother, Karla, who has to lift him from his wheelchair into his car seat on her own before wrestling the wheelchair into the back of their van.
Bradley also has outgrown his car seat, and because Karla does not feel safe transporting him, she is often left with no choice but to leave him behind with caretakers.
Purchasing a lift, and a new van equipped for one, would cost between $40,000 and $80,000, Karla said, and as a single working parent, there is no way she could afford those expenses.
Karla decided to host a benefit for Bradley, hoping to raise funds to help with the cost of a new van and lift, and hung fliers advertising the event throughout Pekin.
Last month Louie Bachman, of Dillon, called Karla’s sister-in-law Connie and told her that he had a van, just like they needed, with a lift already built in. Bachman also said he would like to meet Karla and Bradley, Connie said.
“We bought the van for my wife, Ida,” he said. “She never even got to see it.”
Soon after Bachman purchased the van, he said, Ida took a turn for the worse in her battle against a brain tumor. She died at age 55 before they got to use the van and lift that had been made for her.
“She wanted to go places,” Bachman said of their decision to buy the special van.
Bachman saw the flier for Bradley’s fundraiser at a tattoo parlor, he said.
“I went and got a new tattoo with (Ida’s) name on it,” Bachman said, “and I saw the flier on the wall. It just hit me that she’d love this. So I gave it to them.”
When he met Karla and Bradley, Bachman knew giving them the van was the right thing to do, he said.
“They’re good people,” he said. “Bradley’s a cute little guy. He’s a good boy. He’s always smiling. It seems like he’s got some good things going for him. His mom is really great with him. For a single mother, she does a lot for him. It’s hard on her.”
Bachman brought two of Ida’s sisters with him to meet Bradley and his mom, he said.
“He wanted them to help him make sure Karla and Bradley were the kind of people they wanted to donate the van to,” Connie said. “They just loved Bradley. It’s hard not to once you meet him.”
Like Bachman, Connie noted how upbeat her nephew is. Despite the challenges he faces, she said, Bradley is a “very happy boy. He’s far from depressed. He’s just got a positive attitude. He’s very ornery. He likes to tease people. He calls me Aunt Stinky.”
In fact, being left behind by his mother is one of the only things that gets him down, Connie said.
“He only gets bummed out when he can’t go someplace with her,” Connie said. “This van means so much. It’s perfect.”
“My son is 13 years old and he’s never been able to ride in the front with me,” Karla said. “He is so excited. He just squealed and laughed when (Bachman) gave it to us. He gets so excited about things. He’s a hothead. I call him my little hotdog. I’m even going to put (hotdog) on the plates, if I can, because this van is for him.”
In addition to providing a lift, the new van will safely secure Bradley and his chair to the floor, slightly behind where the front passenger seat would be — that seat and the ones behind it have been removed, Bachman said.
Karla said the new van will change her and her son’s lives.
“It’s definitely a godsend,” she said. “It’s hard to say in words how it felt when he gave it to us. It’s unbelievable. In this day and age, you don’t hear about things like this happening. How can you thank somebody like that?
“I’ll bet you 10-to-1 that Ida was just as wonderful.”
Bachman said that Ida really gave the van to Karla and Bradley, since it was her 401(k) money they’d used to buy it.
“It felt great,” Bachman said of giving the van to the Alexanders. “It just made me feel good, and I know the wife would have really loved it. It’s just the kind of thing that would have made her happy.”
Although they have the van and lift, Karla said, she is still going on with the benefit to help pay for additional expenses that are sure to come up with maintenance, as well as specific equipment and modifications that still need to be made for Bradley.
The benefit will start at 3 p.m. Saturday at Goodfellas Pizza and Pub in Pekin. A spaghetti dinner, auctions, raffle drawings and live music will be available. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets and information.
Bachman said he plans to attend the benefit and has already purchased tickets.
Contact Tara Mattimoe at email@example.com.