March of Dimes grant helps local family buy accessible van
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Eighteen-year-old William Irwin of the Lucknow area and his family recently received a $15,000 vehicle modification grant from March of Dimes Canada that will allow him to continue to be part of his community.
Irwin, who uses a wheelchair full-time, took centre stage at an event last week that included Jason Lye, March of Dimes Canada’s Vice-President of Community Support Services, and Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson. The event was at the Irwins’ Belfast Road home, just south of Lucknow.
Thanks to the March of Dimes grant, which is funded by the provincial government, the Irwins were able to buy a modified van that would accommodate William and his wheelchair, allowing him to attend events like baseball games in the community that he loves.
“Without the $15,000 Home and Vehicle Modification program grant, we wouldn’t have been able to take William to his doctor appointments or on outings with the family. He would have been a prisoner in his own home,” said Jen Irwin, William’s mother, in a press release issued after the event. “Thanks to March of Dimes Canada and the provincial government, we were able to purchase the lift. Now, William can get to where he needs to go and live a full life.”
At the event, Jen said her family had received previous grants from the March of Dimes, including a previous vehicle modification grant and a home modification grant.
Thompson, who spoke at the event, said she was proud to be part of grants like those issued through March of Dimes, seeing what they can mean to families that need assistance with transportation, especially in rural areas, where public transportation options are limited. She also noted that she had grown up on a Belfast Road farm, but further east in East Wawanosh, so she was certainly familiar with the area.
Both Lye and Jen then called on Thompson and the provincial government to make grants through the March of Dimes a priority in the government’s coming economic statement, saying that continuation and expansion of the program would aid so many more people.
Lye said March of Dimes receives about 1,000 applications per year and has to turn away about three-quarters of them because funding is limited. Funding levels, he said, have remained the same since 2001 and the need for assistance is great.
“I am pleased to have been invited to this celebration and to witness how impactful the Home and Vehicle Modification program has been for the Irwin family. I know this program can impact the lives of many more Ontarians, which is why I will be supporting its growth,” Thompson said in the press release.
She said she would bring the requests of Lye and the Irwins to the provincial government.