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Paradise family looking for help to get wheelchair accessible van

By Chris Lewis   |   The Shoreline (Vol. 31 No. 51; March 6 2019)

The high cost of wheelchair accessibility has a Paradise family looking to the public for some help.

Louisa Porter, 16, was born with cortical dysplasia – a congenital abnormality that causes neurons in one area of the brain to fail to migrate in the proper formation in utero.

In Porter’s case, the right hemisphere of her brain had not formed properly, leading to uncontrollable seizures throughout her early life.

In 2010, Porter and her mother, Kelly Kolesar, travelled to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where Porter received life-saving brain surgery, called a functional right hemispherectomy.

However, the surgery was far from a cure-all. The hemispherectomy was considered to be the only option to putting an end to the seizures Porter was suffering from on a regular basis, however, it also saw her right hemisphere get completely disconnected, leaving Porter with only half of a functioning brain.

Since then, Porter has been left permanently paralyzed on her left side, unable to walk or carry out day-to-day tasks on her own. She requires 24-hour care, seven days a week.

Since becoming bound to her wheelchair, Porter and her mom have been relying on wheelchair accessible transportation to get her from place to place, whether medical appointments, or simply a trip to the local park where Porter can go for a swing and enjoy being outside.

For years, the two have been relying on their ‘07 model van, which came with wheelchair accessible equipment that allowed for easier transportation. However, over the years, Kolesar said, the van has become old and unreliable. After going in and out of the mechanic’s shop over the years, Kolesar said the van has finally seen its last day.

“We’ve exhausted just about every repair we could possibly do to that van. The chassie cracked off, and that was the last straw,” she said. “We just couldn’t keep pushing this van to its limits time and time again.”

Kolesar noted the family recently purchased a used van, but that it was more of a placeholder vehicle while they pull together the means of buying something newer. The van Kolesar is currently using is 16-years-old, and she doubts it will survive much longer. “To hospital appointments, and all of her activities – basically just getting her out of the house and being a normal human being – that’s why we need this so much,” said the mom.

The van Kolesar is currently eyeing is a 2017 model – much more modern than the one she is currently relying on. The costs associated with purchasing a vehicle of this make, with the necessary equipment to safely transport Porter, would run Kolesar around $45,000. An even newer rig could possibly run the family upwards of $60,000 to $80,000.

“Obviously, we’re not going to try and get anything that expensive,” Kolesar said. “But there’s no point in putting money towards something that’s 10-years-old. It just doesn’t make sense. You can imagine the beating the vehicles take when transporting wheelchairs and things, so it doesn’t take much to wear them out after a few years.”

Kolesar said a safe, reliable van would do wonders for getting Louisa to her medical appointments, and other places. “But it’s also just a matter of allowing Louisa to live a better life,” said her mom. “Louisa loves to laugh, and she always has a smile on her face. She loves to swing and go to parks. We’re lucky enough that there are wheelchair accessible swings here in Paradise, but most of it is in St. John’s, so that’s even more travelling for us.”

Those looking to make a donation to the fundraiser can contact Judie Keats at (709) 685-0761, or Paul Crummel via email when looking to make a transfer through email at

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