New Wheelchair Makes Life-Changing Impact

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Anonymous Gift of Polar Express Train Tickets Leads to New Wheelchair for Apopka, Florida Man

What started with an anonymous donation of Polar Express tickets to a Central Florida man has turned into a heartwarming story and the delivery of a brand new, fully customized power wheelchair.

In December, the Apopka Fire Department showed up to the home of Derrick Warnack with a gift: tickets to the Polar Express Christmas train ride in Mt. Dora. The tickets, from a ‘secret Santa’ had been given anonymously through the fire department and Derrick was thrilled, so excited in fact, that he didn’t put down the ticket for days.

Derrick, who has Down Syndrome and suffers from Bilateral Avascular Necrosis, is largely confined to a manual wheelchair due to his condition. A trip on the Polar Express was something his family was looking forward to during the holidays and the special gift was unexpected.

During the train ride, which was covered by local news media, Derrick’s mother, America Warnack expressed her gratitude, saying “It’s emotional. He loved it. He wanted to come so bad for so long, and the fact that someone made this happen for us, we’re just eternally, just grateful.”

A New Chair for Derrick

When another firefighter saw the local news stories, he noticed Derrick was sitting in a manual chair and his feet could not not touch the pedals. That firefighter made his own donation – a 2009 Pride Mobility J6 power wheelchair. It was a vast improvement over the manual chair.

After receiving the new Pride J6, Derrick’s mother, America Warnack, contacted WI Medical. The company specializes in the sales and repair of power wheelchairs and mobility scooters as well as other durable medical equipment. She wanted to purchase external controls for the wheelchair to enable her to overtake the chair should Derrick slip or fall over while operating the chair. Controls like these typically cost about $1,800, a luxury Derrick’s mom could not really afford.

A Gift From Pride Mobility

Wendy LaTorre, the marketing director at WI Medical, decided to make a call to Pride Mobility to ask if the company would donate the controls – or at least sell them to WI Medical at cost so they could donate them. LaTorre contacted her Pride Mobility representative Jamison Rybeck.

After a few days, Rybeck, called LaTorre back with an amazing surprise. Pride Mobility was willing to donate a brand new J6 power wheelchair which would normally sell for about  $21,000. When LaTorre shared this news to America Warnack, she was overjoyed.

And then the story took another amazing turn. When Pride Mobility scheduled a physical evaluation to make sure the chair was appropriately fitted for Derrick’s height, weight and physical limitations, it was determined that the J6 was not the correct chair.

It Takes a Village

Rybeck was determined to find the best chair for Derrick. It turned out that Derrick would benefit greatly from Quantum Q6-Edge 3, a top of the line, highly customized chair.  In order to be correctly fitted for the Q6-Edge 3, Derrick had to be evaluated by an Assistive Technology Representative, to help determine the proper seating, positioning, and mobility options that would best fit his current and future needs.

wheelchairSoutheastern Medical Supply in Lakeland, a local mobility equipment provider with on-staff certified Assistive Technology Professionals, agreed to donate their time, driving to Derrick’s home to do a complete evaluation.

When the evaluation was completed and sent to Pride Mobility, the company decided to donate a fully customized chair.

The  Q6-Edge 3 will allow Derrick more freedom of movement and provide body multiple positioning options and support features that will help reduce pressure on his legs, torso, back and neck. Importantly, the chair features an iLevel technology that gives Derrick the ability to raise his seat upwards for better visibility and so he is at eye level for conversations with other people. It also makes daily routines easier as he’s able to reach items on counters and cabinets or more readily transfer to a chair or bed from a raised position.

The wheelchair was presented to Derrick at Southeastern Medical Supply. A local film crew from (name of tv station) was even on hand to capture the moment.

“Derricks feet have never, ever touched a foot rest, they have always just dangled in front of him,” said his mother. “Having a properly fitted wheelchair is amazing. This will make his life so much better and help to keep him healthier. We’re so excited.”

This heartwarming story is another example of how, right here in Florida, the collective efforts of caring individuals and organizations were brought together to make an impact on someone in need.

“I love this story and how everything turned out. It truly takes a village,” said LaTorre at Wi Medical. “We’re so happy for Derricka and grateful to everyone involved who worked to make this happen.”

Video Credit: WFLA News Channel 8 in Tampa, Florida