Parents Betty and Jason Vertin of Nebraska thought their family had more time before they were going to need an accessible van that could fit three power wheelchairs. Their sons Max (14), Rowen (11), and Charlie (9) are affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy. They also have three other children, Lexi (19), Chance (13), and Mary (6).
When Rowen progressed more severely and rapidly than Max and Charlie, he needed a power chair much sooner than expected. To try to make their 12-passenger vehicle work, they modified it with a fold down ramp and took out some of the seats. The ramp was extremely heavy and not easy to use, making it a constant struggle to safely transport their family of eight. Now, all three of the boys are using mobility devices: Max and Rowen are in their power chairs, while Charlie is in his scooter.
With a price tag of over $65,000 for the size vehicle they needed, the Vertin family turned to Jett Foundation for support. Jett Giving Fund’s Accessible Vehicle Fund is a financial assistance program of Jett Foundation where families raise half the funds needed or more for their equipment, and the foundation covers the remaining half of the costs for families in the program.
The family was grateful to be accepted into the program, but once the pandemic hit, the Vertins had their doubts on whether they were going to be able to raise enough money for their half of the van. With in-person events impossible as a result of the pandemic, it was so much harder for them to ask their community for donations. But that didn’t stop them.
“I was amazed. With so many unknowns and everything being canceled, we still were able to raise the funds. It was truly a testament to our community and how we support each other.”
When they found out they were receiving a new accessible van, they were so excited. The van was delivered on a big flat bed, and the boys loved watching it unload. Everyone got in the van, and the family drove it home! The new van has made enjoying life so much easier for the Vertin family. All 6 children are able to fit comfortably in the van, including all 3 of the mobility devices.
“The kids named it “the Beast” and we call it “Beasty” out of love,” says Betty.
Betty mentioned that her and Jason already feel so much better physically because they don’t have to lift and transfer as much. The boys can get in and out of the van more easily, with much more room to move around. The new van has sustained the boys’ independence, given them a new sense of freedom, and increased joy all around.
Once they received the van, they already started planning fun adventures. This past summer, the Vertin family was so excited to take their new van to a family member’s cabin, who extended an invite for a weekend! They were able to fit the whole family, plus their luggage and cooler, without taking two cars–something they couldn’t do before. They also are able to enjoy all of Chance’s baseball games as a family now. Betty says, “There are not a lot of vans out there big enough for 3 chairs but also 6 kids. We are so grateful that we are able to find this particular vehicle. It is such an amazing gift.”
She continued, “We’re so grateful to Jett Foundation. A huge thank you to you guys for everything you do for us and the community.”
When asked what her biggest piece of advice would be for fellow Jett Giving Fund participants, Betty said, “Don’t be intimidated to ask for help directly and you’ll be blown away by the love and support you will receive. There are so many good people who want to help. Have faith in your people in your life and keep at.”
Started in 2017, Jett Giving Fund has helped transform the lives of countless families across the country with over $1.7 million worth of accessible equipment and emergency assistance thanks to the generous support of individual donors, local communities, and major sponsors including Cure Dale’s Duchenne, Sarepta Therapeutics, Fibrogen, and Flatley Foundation.