Lower Burrell couple gives Avonmore boy's family accessible van

| Tuesday, May 27, 2014, 1:01 a.m.

Because of generous strangers, Jonathan March's family won't have to worry about how to transport him to his favorite places.

Jonathan, who has never been able to walk or talk because of a rare genetic disorder, Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, is growing too large for his parents to constantly pick up and put into their cars when he wanted to go to his favorite places, like the river or the park.

So, the Marches entered Jonathan into the National Mobility Awareness Month's contest to win an accessible van.

The 9-year-old Avonmore boy didn't win, but his story, which was chronicled in the Valley News Dispatch, attracted the attention of the right couple: Mary Lynn and Randy Shank of Lower Burrell.

“One of our best friends was battling cancer and ended up in a wheelchair,” said Mary Lynn Shank. “We bought him a van, but unfortunately, we lost him in April.

“A couple weeks ago, his family brought (the van) back to us, which we weren't expecting. The morning after we got the van back, I saw the story in the paper.

“We have it and thank God we don't need it. Something was telling me (giving the van to the Marches) was what to do with it.”

So the Shanks reached out to Jonathan's parents, Mandi and Shawn, to offer them the van free of charge.

“When she told me that, I almost dropped my phone,” said an elated Mandi March. “I was so ecstatic.

“I was speechless, really. It means the world to Jonathan.”

March said the van will allow the wheelchair-enabled little boy to maintain his quality of life.

“This is life saving for Jonathan,” she said. “This will make a huge difference in his livelihood.

“We don't have to worry about him falling or us dropping him when we take him somewhere.”

Mary Lynn Shank said she understands how tough it is for someone in a wheelchair to use a standard car.

“A few years ago, our daughter, Lindsay, was in a car accident and broke her pelvis,” Shank said. “She was in wheelchair for about two months.

“I know all too well how hard it is to get someone in and out of a vehicle,” she said. “They have to do it all the time.

“I'm just glad there's someone who needs and can use this van.”

Mandi March said she and her family can't thank the Shanks enough.

“It's unbelievable,” she said. “They don't even know who we are.

“I've never had something like this happen to me. I'm just blown away by it. I don't know how to thank them.

“This is proof that there are still giving people in this world.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance reporter for Trib Total Media.

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