OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – The east Alabama community continues rallying around Mike “Robo” Roberson, a former Auburn Police and DARE officer who served nearly three decades before catastrophic strokes forced him to retire.
Soon, a $40,000 home renovation project with the Chattahoochee Fuller Center funded by community donations will provide a wheelchair-friendly bed and bath for Robo and his wife.
Thursday, another blessing rolled into their Opelika driveway.
“We got your house taken care of, and we needed to get you some wheels, so there’s your new van,” Josh Datnoff, the President of the Auburn Firefighters Association, broke the fantastic news to Robo and his family. Happy tears and hugs followed the surprise announcement.
The Gunners Motorcycle Club, Auburn Firefighters Association, Franklin Tire, CP Wrecker, Tiger Body, and Paint worked together to donate a wheelchair-accessible van.
“Very exciting, because now he is mobile, he can get out and do the things he wants to do and live with ease,” said Jacquelyn Roberson.
Robo’s wife Jacquelyn is his devoted caregiver. The couple can no longer sleep in the bedroom of their Opelika home because Robo can’t get upstairs.
Instead, Robo sleeps in his wheelchair, Jacquelyn by his side in another chair in their first-floor living room. Robo says it would feel fantastic to rest comfortably in a bed again and take a shower, which he has not been able to do in several months.
It’s been hard for them to travel because it’s challenging to get Robo out of his wheelchair and into a vehicle. He needed a van with a ramp.
When Josh Datnoff with the Firefighters Association heard about Robo’s situation, he began raising money for the Fuller Center’s renovation project of adding a downstairs bed and bath for the couple.
Datnoff then began searching for a way to help Robo and his wife travel easier to see friends, family, and doctors as he continues his recovery.
“The van was my uncle’s van, and he passed away. So, we gave it to a close family friend, and she had it for about three years. She’s gotten better and didn’t need the ramp anymore, so they donated it to the Auburn Firefighters Association so we could get it ready for Robo,” said Datnoff.
The Gunner’s Motorcycle Group helped secure repairs and maintenance for the van, on top of raising money for the home renovation project. So Thursday, when the van was given to Robo and his family, it was hard to tell who was happier – Robo or the friends who gave him the keys.
“When you see a grown man cry, it just brings tears to your eyes. Especially with it being a surprise. I have been wiping my eyes ever since I got here,” said Cody Post, Owner of CP Wrecker Service.
On the back of the van, President of the Gunners Motorcycle Club Ruben Garza asked Robo if it would be okay to put three tribute stickers to fallen Auburn Police Officer Will Buechern on the back. Robo readily agreed.
Buechner was a Gunner brother and loved his motorcycle family. The Gunners are known for their generous hearts and continuous community service. Garza says Buechner would have loved watching Robo, his former Auburn police officer brother, receive a van to help him.
“We should do this for everyone who needs help. But, so often, you can’t do it on your own, and we are just happy to help in any situation. That’s what we are about as a club. That’s what Gunners do,” said Garza.
The renovation project at Robo’s house will begin soon.
The Fuller Center Project is a non-profit group that builds and remodels homes for families in need. The group serves mainly in Chambers County, but in 2019 the group reached out to families in Lee County devastated by the March 3 tornadoes and built 18 homes in 7 months for survivors.