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'Angels for Andy' help family buy wheelchair-accessible van for disabled boy

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Latrobe native John McComb helps his 8-year-old son Andy in their family's new wheelchair-accessible van. After fundraisers contributed to the down-payment, the McCombs traveled to Georgia in early November to purchase the van. Riding in the new van is much more comfortable for Andy, his father said.

After so many people had a hand in helping the McComb family, they wanted to show off a wheelchair-accessible van that they traveled to Georgia to purchase.

“It makes everyday life a lot easier,” said John McComb, a Latrobe native and Army veteran.

His 8-year-old son Andy displays symptoms of cerebral palsy, including developmental delays and seizures, but has no certain diagnosis.

A 1998 Greater Latrobe High School graduate, John McComb and his wife, Eun Kyoung, live in Apollo.

The couple was able to make a down payment on the van with the help of Jeannie Sowers and her daughter, Amber Sowers Phillips, who organized a bingo event in October for them.

Jeannie Sowers said about 85 people attended the event, which featured 102 baskets of donated items that were raffled off or won as bingo prizes.

“We were thrilled,” Sowers said.

The event and other fundraisers — including sales of “Angels for Andy” T-shirts, baked goods and an online campaign — helped raise more than $7,500 toward the 2012 Chrysler Town and Country van.

“It was way more than we thought was going to happen. It was great,” John McComb said.

The family traveled to a dealership near Atlanta on Nov. 2 — because the converted vans were $10,000 cheaper there — and stayed with family friends to pick out the vehicle, McComb said.

Sowers said that even before seeing it in person, photos online of McComb helping Andy into the van were inspirational.

“You could just see that the weight of the world was off his shoulders since he could do what he had wanted for his son,” she said.

The van is much more comfortable for Andy and the rest of the family because of extra room for loading and unloading his wheelchair, in which he can sit while riding.

The McCombs are even able to use a five-point harness and newer wheelchair, which had been too cumbersome to fit into their sport utility vehicle, John McComb said.

Eun Kyoung McComb, who goes by “EK,” said she is grateful to those who donated.

“It's really amazing,” she said. “We can't say enough thanks to them.”

The McCombs took the van to a Westmoreland Roller Derby practice to show it off to EK McComb's teammates, who donated 50/50 raffle contributions to the cause, and to John McComb's co-workers at the Port Authority of Allegheny County, who had held a bake sale to benefit the family.

EK McComb said she plans to send Christmas card thank-you notes and post online for the family's supporters, about half of whom they had never met. “We are blessed,” she said. “We've got love.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or