Mobility van an early Christmas present for Charles City family

By Kelly Terpstra,

Christmas came a little early for the Rand family of Charles City.

This holiday present didn’t have wrapping paper or a bow on it, but it was a welcome gift, nonetheless.

A mobility/wheelchair van was given to the Rands through a free drawing courtesy of Movement Solutions, a car dealership in Clear Lake.

What the van has meant to Patrick and Elizabeth Rand could warm anybody’s heart on a cold and snowy Iowa winter evening.

“It’s amazing. It’s crazy. I still don’t really believe it,” said Elizabeth. “We really need a van anyway, because we have plenty of kids.”

Life has become a little easier after the Rands and their 8-year-old son, Caleb, picked up the van on Christmas eve.

The van, a 2007 Chrysler Town and Country with 158,000 miles on it that has been modified to be wheelchair accessible, was won by the Rands on Dec. 21 after their name was randomly selected from among a list of people who were submitted who could use such a vehicle.

The van will help out immensely when the Rands are driving around with Caleb, who has cerebral palsy and is non-verbal autistic.

“That does not mean quiet,” said Patrick.

As Caleb has grown over the years, it’s become harder to get him in and out of vehicles — whether that’s trips to get groceries, going out to eat or just running errands around town.

“If we have multiple stops, it’s exhausting,” said Patrick. “Especially for my wife. She’s only, like, 5-2. He’s almost her size. It’s just getting difficult to do that.”

Caleb also experiences seizures and has to take medication because of it.

Patrick said Caleb can walk when he gets out of his wheelchair, but his gait is often off-balance. He also has to wear a helmet because of safety concerns if he would fall and hit his head on the ground or run into something.

“His legs will get stiff, so he’s hard to bend,” said Patrick. “At 8 years old, trying to get that man in and out of a back seat of car is a full-time job.”

Now with ability to load him into the van via the ramp that automatically comes down, trips now seem like a breeze compared to what they used to be.

“It’s nice not to have to worry about something that little. Something that little can become a bigger deal,” Patrick said. “There’s times we can’t even go do things together because one of us has to stay with him. He doesn’t want to go anywhere.

“Now we can just roll him right up the ramp in his chair, strap him down and roll him right out,” Patrick said. “It is very helpful.”

Caleb, who is a student at Washington Elementary in Charles City, often gets irritated by all the poking and prodding it takes to get him ready to be transported to go on trips. That leaves him tired after repeated stops.

“He starts to get annoyed on about the third stop,” Patrick said. “He gets frustrated with all the in-and-out, having to lift and bend and all that.”

The van isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, according to Movement Solutions’ Facebook post about the drawing. But it certainly gets the job done.

“It’s just starting get hard for us to get him in and out of the car. He’s a big boy,” said Elizabeth.

Patrick and Elizabeth at first didn’t believe they had won the van until Patrick’s mother sent him a screenshot of the happy news.

“It was one of those deals where I’ll believe it when I see it. You don’t get your hopes up when you’re a guy like me — when you don’t got luck like that,” Patrick said. “I wasn’t even really going to call. I kind of thought it was a joke.”

The older van runs well. Movement Solutions also paid for the sales tax, title and registration fee for the first year.

“It’s a very generous thing that they did,” said Patrick.

The mobility van definitely brightened Caleb’s day, as well as the rest of his family.

“They were telling Patrick, there was some rust on it, not to expect too much. We didn’t have very high hopes,” said Elizabeth.

What they found was, “It’s very clean inside,” she said. “It’s more than he would need. We’re thrilled that we got it.”

Patrick works for L&J Industries, a metal fabricator in Charles City. Elizabeth has a job at Chautauqua Main Street in town. The Rands encounter day-to-day struggles like most families. But with the addition of the van, life got a little bit easier.

“With me, no matter how bad things get, look around. I got it pretty good,” said Patrick.

He said at first he was a little apprehensive about accepting the van, just from the standpoint that he wants to provide for his family and doesn’t want handouts.

“It’s always hard for me to accept. I want to work for everything,” said Patrick. “I never wanted my son to be a charity case. I don’t see this as that.”

Elizabeth said she is extremely happy that her son’s life became a little more easy with the addition of the van.

She says Caleb’s classmates and teachers all love him and get along with him well.

“Caleb brings out the good in people,” Elizabeth said.

As far as who submitted the Rands’ name into the drawing?

“It was actually my ex-wife of my other two children who threw my name in the pot. It was kind of a surprise,” said Patrick. “Shocking, huh?”