Ticket to an Accessible Ride

Family Who Didn’t Expect to Win NMEDA Local Heros Accessible Van Says Experience Was Inspiring

Davert Family and VMI Honda Odyssey with Northstar ConversionIt’s easy to be skeptical about entering online contests. Nobody really wins them anyway, right?

That’s what Missy and Ken Davert thought when a friend encouraged them to enter NMEDA’s “Win an Adapted Vehicle” contest for National Mobility Awareness Month. But on July 19, the Daverts were handed the keys to a brand-new 2012 Honda Odyssey with VMI’s Northstar conversion.

“A good friend of ours sent me a link to the contest,” said Missy Davert. “She told us that we really needed to apply, but I was hesitant because I knew it’d be a lot of work. Besides, nobody ever wins these kinds of contests. But our friend continued to push and encourage us, so we started the application process.”

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) hosted the Local Heroes contest in March to bring awareness to the benefits of accessible automobiles for people with disabilities. The contest was open to all people with mobility challenges.

After the Daverts entered the contest, their entire community rallied. In fact, the Daverts didn’t realize how much the community was behind them at first. Friends started posting the contest on social media sites, and before the Daverts knew it, their story had spread. Even the local TV news station and two city newspapers interviewed the family and encouraged the community to get involved.

“Even if we didn’t win, the whole experience was so positive for our family,” said Missy. “One day a guy on a motorcycle pulled up beside Ken at a stoplight and said, ‘Hey, we voted for you!’ To know that complete strangers were rooting for us was very inspiring.”

Prior to winning the VMI 25th Anniversary Honda Odyssey with Northstar conversion, the Daverts were driving well-used mini and full-size vans. They had personally customized the vehicles to accommodate Missy’s driving needs as well as support their twins’ wheelchairs.

“Both of the vehicles we were driving were really old and dilapidated,” said Missy.

The family got a major upgrade when VMI and Mobility Works of Michigan held a party for the Daverts and handed them keys to their new ride.

“The VMI van is far and beyond what we would ever have dreamed of owning,” said Missy. “It saves our family a huge amount of time. In the old van we had a manual tie-down system that took us 20 minutes to get the kids in the car. In the VMI van, it takes us two minutes to get the kids in and out. Before, we had to plan ahead for every trip and now we can just pop in the car and go.”

The special 25th Anniversary Honda Odyssey from VMI, a manufacturer of accessible van conversions, features the company’s Northstar in-floor ramp design, which enables the wheelchair ramp to roll out from beneath the floor instead of taking up space within the vehicle.

“I knew this kind of technology existed but didn’t know how it could benefit our family,” said Missy. “The in-floor ramp rolls out so quickly. We just didn’t realize how much it could change our life until we had it.”

MobilityWorks, a VMI retailer, performed additional customization for the Daverts, which included the addition of three Easy Lock tie-down systems, pedal extensions and a 2-step design that allows Missy to access the driver’s seat with greater ease.

“The darn thing is just so cool looking,” said Missy. “It doesn’t look like a handicap van at all. VMI has done a wonderful job designing it. I was recently at a store and two guys walked by and said, ‘That’s one great looking van.’ They didn’t even know it was a wheelchair accessible van. And the first day we took it to church everybody was so excited to see all of the neat technology that VMI packed into it. I never thought I’d be driving a vehicle someone else would admire.”

The Daverts are happy their friend encouraged them to enter the contest.

“We’re just so grateful to VMI, Mobility Works, NMEDA and our community for changing our lives with this contest. We’re getting out more and our kids have a chance to experience a world they were limited to before,” Missy said. “And with the lock-down system in the front passenger area, they even get a front seat view of this whole new world.”

Read more about the contest here.