Victoria resident Melissa Sephton, who has cerebral palsy, is pictured in her Cook Street home on March 17. Sephton has saved up $14,000 towards a new van vital for her lifestyle, and along with her caregivers is asking the community for help fundraising more. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

Victoria resident Melissa Sephton, who has cerebral palsy, is pictured in her Cook Street home on March 17. Sephton has saved up $14,000 towards a new van vital for her lifestyle, and along with her caregivers is asking the community for help fundraising more. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

Vancouver Island woman with cerebral palsy loses vital van; replacement sought

‘Melly loves to see the world,’ fundraiser note says; $14,000 saved from disability cheques

Jennifer Olson didn’t get to say goodbye to the 1994 Chevy Vandura she’d driven since new.

When she took it to be repaired at an auto shop one month ago, she was told the van’s frame had dissolved and it was unfit to drive home.

Worse than losing their van after nearly 30 years and many journeys was what it meant for its favourite passenger.

Melissa Sephton, a 22-year-old Victoria resident with cerebral palsy, relied on the van every single day said Olson, the woman’s primary caretaker since she was three.

Trips to church, to visit grandparents in Sidney and family in each of the Pacific U.S. states, as well as hospital appointments, all saw Sephton transported in the ‘94 Chevy. The specialty van accommodated the height of Sephton’s wheelchair and ensured she didn’t have to rely on public transportation, which Olson said has been particularly dangerous for vulnerable adults during the pandemic.

READ ALSO: People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

Jennifer Olson’s 1994 Chevy Vandura, which the Olsons used in their care of Melissa Sephton every day until its ruin a month ago. (Sean Olson)

The Olsons would like a new van for Sephton, registered in her name, that will last her for decades. “We don’t want her to be in this situation ever again,” Olson said. But with five natural and two foster children, she and her husband aren’t in a position to buy the vital transportation tool.

They’ve set up a GoFundMe fundraiser for a new van, which as of March 17 had raised just over $2,500 toward a goal of $125,000. Sephton herself has saved $14,000 from adult disability cheques collected since she became eligible three years ago.

The family looked at one van that was priced at $75,000 but would have had trouble driving over the Malahat. “It’ll be a challenge finding a vehicle that’ll be appropriate and will last a long time,” Olson said. But without one, she didn’t know how her family will meet Sephton’s needs.

READ ALSO: Transportation ministry’s Road Trip Time Machine series improves 1966 look at TCH

“During COVID, she has been essentially shut-in, except for long van rides on the Island,” Spencer Olson wrote on the fundraiser page. “Melly loves to see the world and, hopefully, with your help, will continue her goals.”

To contribute to Sephton’s van fund, visit “Help Melly Buy A Wheelchair Van” on Gofundme.com.


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