Taylor Nay’s van was laughably awful. His white 1994 Town & Country sporting almost as much duct tape as paint made creaks and crunches every time you opened the door.
“Pretty sure this van was nice when it first rolled off the lot,” the 22-year old said from his wheelchair. “Time took it’s toll.”
That’s why today, has been a long time coming.
Born with muscular dystrophy, Nay has needed specially-built, custom vans the travel anywhere. The 1994 van, which his brother, Spencer De Leon, has been shuttling Taylor around in for the last five years, could barely do the job anymore.
“I don’t know how that headlight still works but it works,” said their mother, Melanie De Leon, with a smile. “People avoid me on the highway now because they’re afraid I’m going to hit them.”
The front headlight was only attached because of duct tape. Same goes for the back right window. The sliding door required a lot of muscle to open and a bungee cord to keep closed.
“It open once while I was driving,” said Melanie. “Luckily I was in a parking lot.”
For years, the family tried to save enough money to get a new van but was never quite able to scrape together enough. Taylor’s visits to Custom Mobility in Largo served as a reminder of how special it would be to have a new van. Beautiful new custom vans sat on the front lawn of the same building where he received tune ups for his wheelchair.
“I always cringe when I see a bump coming,” Taylor said while sitting next to his 1994 van. “It’s crap.”
He smiled from his chair as Spencer’s girlfriend snapped a photo of Taylor on her iPhone.
“Last time!” she said, excitedly.
The family was here at Custom Mobility to get a new van thanks to the generosity of an old high school friend.
The old van? "Crap" New one? "Like Pope Mobile instead of horse and buggy". Anonymous donor made custom van reality for man in wheelchair 6p pic.twitter.com/Bo9ADFUvKl— Bobby Lewis (@Bobby_L) August 10, 2017
“My friends and I came up with the idea to do a Go Fund Me,” said Katie Clark, who got the idea to help fundraise for Taylor after seeing how difficult it was for him to exit the old van during a trip to the aquarium. She remembered the moment when she called to tell her friend that her Go Fund Me page had raised the necessary $5,000 for a new van.
“He was so excited. I could hear him in the background. It was great. Such a good day.”
An anonymous donor pledged to match Clark’s $5,000, giving her the $10,000 they needed to buy Taylor a new van.
“It’s like the Pope mobile compared to a horse and buggy,” said Taylor with a huge grin. A shiny 2003 Dodge Caravan with custom built wheelchair floor mounts sat in the Custom Mobility driveway.
“Definitely an upgrade,” he said.
Melanie fought back tears as she signed the paperwork. Greg Smith, the salesman, handed her the keys.
“Blessed,” said Spencer, testing out the front seat. “We’ve been praying for a new van for years. It’s about time we got one.”
The best feature of the new van, according to Taylor, was the ability to sit side-by-side with other passengers now. For Melanie, it was air conditioning, something the old van didn’t have.
After a quick lesson on how to secure the wheelchair, Melanie sped off with a smiling son in the backseat. The only van will be scrapped for parts.
The new van rolled like a dream.
© 2017 WTSP-TV