A friend raises $40,000 to buy couple wheelchair accessible van

HARTSELLE, Ala. (WHNT) – In Hartselle Saturday, a young couple drove home in a brand new van specially equipped for their severely handicapped daughter. But the real story isn’t so much what happened, but how it happened. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Aaron Andrews is the minister at a small Lauderdale County church, a husband, and the father of 3 children.

“Laura was born, she’d had 3 strokes prior to birth. And we didn’t know until about 12 hours after she was born, she started having seizures. They took her and did a cat scan and found brain damage on both sides of the brain. And so they told us they didn’t know what her life would be like,” Andrews explained.

That was 10 years ago. Today Laura is happy and healthy, but will need the use of a mobility device, like her wheelchair for the rest of her life. As Laura has grown, so has the need for a wheelchair accessible van.

“At first, it was not a problem. She was little, car seats and such, but she’s gotten bigger and we realized things needed to change,” Andrews told WHNT News 19. Adding to their need, the Andrews had their third child a few months ago.

Well, they found the vehicle that suited their needs at Griffin Mobility in Hartselle, and they told the owner they’d be back when they could afford it. But Brian Griffin has seen a lot of families in need.

“I’ll be honest, I was not expecting them to be able to pull it off as quickly as they did. Within just a couple of months, usually we see people take a few years to achieve what they did in a couple of months,” Griffin explained.

But Saturday the Andrews were back and they would drive home in their new van.

That might have been the end of our story except for one very important detail. The Andrews didn’t have the money to go out and buy a van like that for their family. They said it would have taken them a year or longer just to save up the down payment. If they were going to get the vehicle they needed, someone would have to step up and help. And someone did. An old friend. An ordinary guy who did something quite extraordinary.

Enter Mark White. He’s a security guard at Athens State University, and longtime friend of the Andrews. When he heard Arron and Tammy were trying to raise the down payment for the van, he decided he would help. Mark spearheaded a fund raising effort and six weeks later they didn’t have just the down payment, they had raised enough the buy the van outright. The Andrews were completely overwhelmed.

Fighting back her tears, Tammy Andrews explained, “It’s really unbelievable.”

“You do this for folks that you love and you care about and that’s why it was started. I love these folks and been friends with them for a long time,” White says.

How rich we are if all we have are a few good friends.

Most of the contributions came from total strangers. The Andrews are extremely grateful and say more than anything else, the experience has been a lesson in compassion and the meaning of friendship.

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