Hometown responds to need for specialized van

HUMBOLDT — A couple’s hometown has responded to a GoFundMe effort to raise money to buy a van equipped wheelchair lift for their sons to use.

Three out of five of Dean and Jackie Shabatoski’s children have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder that causes muscles, organs and nerves in the body to turn weaken. Over time, people with the condition will lose the ability to walk, lift their arms, speak and, ultimately, breathe.

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Braiden, 27, and Samuel, 16, are using wheelchairs.

A van with the right modifications will cost around $80,000. The Humboldt Emergency Response Organization, which helps people expenses connected to medical care and transport, donated $15,000 to the cause.

“This donation is huge for us to be able to get our boys and – for especially my wife – the ability to move our children around without me being around,” said Dean. “That’s the biggest thing right now. I’ve been lifting them and from one point to the other, in and out of their wheelchairs.”

The Shabatoskis live in Clavet, but Dean is from Humboldt and Jackie is from Carmel. It was Jackie’s sister that decided to start raising money for the van on GoFundMe.

“Dean and Jackie are a very proud couple, proud of the beautiful family they have raised but also too proud to ask for help,” said the GoFundMe page.

Dean is happy with the results so far.

“It’s just been unbelievable and very humbling how people that don’t know us – or do know us – have come forward and helped us in a big way,” Dean said.

The Humboldt Knights of Columbus raised $5,000 at a pancake breakfast, while the Ukrainian Ladies raised almost $2,000. The family has raised around $65,000.

“We are getting awfully close,” Dean said. “We’re looking at a vehicle now, which we never thought was going to be in our grasp for a long time.”

Getting the van will restore some independence to the boys. Dean said Samuel will be able to go places once his twin sister gets her licence.

“For him to not have mom and dad around all the time too, with his friends driving this van, it’s just a fantastic step for him also.”

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