Special needs teen in the running - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Special needs teen in the running for a handicapped accessible van

Posted: Updated:
Hunter (Source: Family photo) Hunter (Source: Family photo)
Monica Darlage Monica Darlage
Your vote could help Hunter win a handicapped accessible van. Your vote could help Hunter win a handicapped accessible van.

NORTH VERNON, IN (WAVE) – A Kentuckiana couple needs your help to win a handicapped accessible van for their special needs teenager.

Brian and Monica Darlage can't help but tear up when they talk about their 15-year-old son Hunter.

"As parents, we never gave up on Hunter," said Mrs. Darlage. "They told us he would never walk, talk, do anything and he's proved every one of them wrong."

Hunter was born at 24 weeks and he was just one and a half pounds. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to his extreme prematurity.

"Hunter is our world," said Mrs. Darlage. "He's a fighter, always has. I think God gave him to us for a reason."

Through the years, the Darlages saw Hunter get stronger, even walking on his own, but last year his health started going down hill. 

"We've had many more diagnoises with Hunter," said Mrs. Darlage. "This past June, he had triple osteotomy on his hips and on his pelvic and from June to July, he was in the operating room five different times."

Hunter still goes to physical therapy and doctors appointments three times a week in Indianapolis more than an hour and a half from their North Vernon home.

"We're usually traveling anywhere from 500-750 miles a week," said Mr. Darlage. 

At 5'5'' and 125 pounds, Hunter continues to grow, which makes it difficult to get him from place to place.

"I can no longer lift him, it takes both of us to lift him," said Mrs. Darlage. 

The Darlages can only imagine what it would be like to own a handicapped accessible van. It would have a built-in ramp and Hunter would be able to stay in his wheelchair. It is valued anywhere from $35,000-$50,000, something that is just not in their family budget with constantly rising medical bills.  

"It takes everything we got to make ends meet," said Mrs. Darlage. 

That's why they entered Hunter into a contest to win a special van for National Mobility Awareness month. Hunter's older siblings have seen the struggles he's lived through and know what a blessing winning would mean for their family. 

"We've never even had anything that is handicap accessible," said Cheyenne Howard, Hunter's sister. "We've always had to makeshift something like a ramp and stuff like that."

"Hunter of all people, I think deserves to win, but as I said win or lose, we can't say we didn't try," said Mrs. Darlage. 

You can vote once a day up until May 10. Three winners will be selected out of the top 5 percent.  

Click here to vote for Hunter! 

Copyright 2013 WAVE News. All rights reserved.