Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Skinny on the Mini

The Mini Van, that is.

This is a big story, so get ready. But I'll spoil the ending by telling you now that it ends quite happily!

I'm not sure where to begin, so I'll begin at the beginning. In October of 2004, the lease on our old mini van was up. We decided that rather than go into another lease, we would buy a new 2005 Toyota Sienna. At this time, Soren was just over a year and we fully expected (hoped, prayed) that he would be walking in the next couple years.

Well, 2005 came and went and there was no walking. Same with 2006 and 2007. So as 2007 neared its end, we decided that we needed to convert our Sienna to make it wheelchair accessible. I had spoken to a variety of parents and been told that the state would only cover $10,000 of this. I was also told that this could cost between $20,000-$28,000.

When Mayra at Monkeyhouse contacted me in October about a fundraiser in January, we figured the timing was perfect. We would have a fundraiser to convert the van!

In January, just as the fundraiser was about to start, I contacted the Regional Center (the state agency for people with special needs) that Soren is with to begin the process to see how much they would cover. I was asked by them to get 3 bids from 3 vendors who specialize in converting vans and in selling already converted vans.

When I called these vendors, I told them that I needed to get a bid on converting my 2005 Sienna. And they told me it was too old!

I was stunned and bummed. Too old! But...but that's our NEW car! Aaron's still driving his 11 year old truck and we were hoping it would hold on a few more years. Suddenly we were in the market for a new or slightly used, already converted van, which was very much not in our plans.

So I got three quotes for vans that were already converted. 1) A 2006 Toyota Sienna with 7,000 miles, 2) A new 2007 Honda Odyssey, and 3) A 2008 Toyota Sienna. The Regional Center looked at all these quotes. They weren't looking at the price of the car--that would be our problem. Their concern was the price of the conversion. The first two came in within $300 of each other. So they asked which we would prefer. Well, the new 2007 was actually $600 less than the used Toyota, so that seemed like a sweeter deal.

Now, mind you, while all this was going on, I was flipping out. I got quotes on these cars, but these cars are VERY desirable. Depending on how long the approval process went, the vans could be gone. There was only this one used 2006 on the one lot. And the 2007s on the other lot were going fast. Plus their good price was only going to last until January 31st! I was also flipping out because WE WEREN'T REALLY IN THE MARKET FOR A NEW CAR!!!

So I'm sweating bullets hoping to get the answer soon and hoping that the fundraiser goes INCREDIBLY WELL to off-set the amount we had to pay. And amazingly, the Regional Center approved the ENTIRE COST of the conversion for the Honda Odyssey, which came to over $18,700! Woof!

I totally wasn't expecting this. It was not what I'd ever heard from any other parent. And I'd spoken to quite a few.

But the good news about the Regional Center covering the conversion was that the fundraising money could go to the cost of the van. And now, to date with our fundraising, we've raised over $13,000! Everyone was remarkably and wonderfully generous. Family. Friends. Strangers. People just gave and gave! That money has made it so we can do our part with the purchase of the Odyssey, which will be delivered to us by the end of the week!

This has been a serious whirlwind. I made the first call to the Regional Center in early January. And once that train started down the track, it didn't stop between getting bids, having the fundraiser, getting approval, securing the van, getting the money, and paying for the van.

I cannot thank you all enough or express how much this will help our lives. Every time I load Soren into his car seat, it's getting more challenging. I end up having to toss him in like a sack of potatoes, which is hardly pleasant for him. I've clocked his head against his chin, giving us both headaches. And loading his full wheelchair stroller into the back of my van has wrenched my back one too many times.

Soon we will have this van and a new wheelchair for Soren (though his wheelchair stroller is approved for car travel until then). My Mom's brother is building a ramp at the front of our house next week, which is also being paid for by the Regional Center! So I'll be able to just roll him down from the house and straight into the van.

And what of the "old" van? Well, we were going to sell it to help pay for the rest of the new van. But since Aaron's truck is going to start costing us more money than it's saving us, and since we own the "old" van, which is newer and safer than the truck, we will become a 2 mini van family. In the end, this will be good in the event of an emergency with Soren--if I'm driving the converted van and unreachable, Aaron can still pick up Soren in a pinch.

So that is the Skinny on the Mini. Thank you all so very, very much!

Oh! And art is still available monkeyhousetoys.com. Just go to Original Art on the left and that will lead you to an icon for the 4 Soren art show. The money will continue to go to this unexpected, but amazing, life-changing purchase!




Annejelynn said...

this is amazing. and brings happy tears to my eyes!

DivaLea said...

Hi! I read about Soren at Lauren Faust's deviantART page.
I wanted to stop by and give you a big "WOO HOO!" for meeting your goal.

I also have a special needs son, and know the hoop-jumping seems horribly random and arbitrary. Like parents of SN kids need more stress and surprises, right?

The great thing about the new van is that every day you will look at it and feel the kindness of everyone who helped you, and it will make your day a little easier.

Good luck!