Through its B & G Endowment, the Foundation donated a van to the parents of a five year-old with Down's Syndrome and epilepsy. This gift was made possible through the generosity of the family of George Locascio, a longtime trustee and founder of the B & G Endowment.
As it does so often, the Foundation received a request for emergency financial assistance. This was for a van, the purchase of which we could not afford, yet we try not to turn anyone away. It read...
Dear Mr. De Lucia:
Could you or some other agency help my son get a wheelchair van? There are no monies right now for us. My son, who is five, is getting too big for his car seat and he's too heavy to pick up for me anymore. Tristan is very delayed with Down's Syndrome and West Syndrome (epilepsy). He's also had chronic pneumonia, and must use a feeding tube and trach. The list goes on and on. He is in a wheelchair. Tristan cannot walk or talk. He is similar to CP capacity. But, let me tell you, he is the happiest little boy anyone could ask for. He smiles sometimes that just makes you feel so great! I am in desperate need of a wheelchair van for him as his growth goes up and up. He's almost too big for his car seat. This would be so simpler for us as we could just wheel him into a van instead of lifting him. Tristan is on the go as he goes to school, therapies and specialized doctors. Please let me know if you know of anyone who could help us. Thank you for your time and consideration.
P.S. Here’s a photo of Tristan the day he graduated from Pre-K at Nina Harris School:
I responded, indicating we had no money to contribute to the purchase a van, but might know of one available for donation. I contacted Dorothy Locascio, wife of B & G founder George Locascio who died in December, and asked if his van had been sold yet. She said it had not been sold and that his estate would be delighted to donate it to the Foundation’s B & G Endowment. I picked up the vehicle from van conversion specialist Phil Faas, who had it for sale. I drove it to Abilities, where it remained while we arranged to transfer the vehicle, a 1996 Ford Econoline van equipped with dual air conditioning, two batteries, power throughout, raised roof, wheelchair lift, upholstery with wood trim, wheelchair tie downs, AM/FM radio, and six-CD changer. It had 88,000 miles and was well-maintained.
Meantime, Tristan had developed some breathing problems and had to be admitted to All Children’s Hospital, where he's been followed by doctors since birth. I visited Tristan's private room and had the opportunity to see him for the first time and meet his family. Tristan, who takes among other medications, four prescriptions to control his seizures, slept through the entire visit.
Tristan was released after a three-day stay and returned home. Although the van was in very good condition, I asked Ambassador Limousine owner Ken Lucci to detail the it at no cost, to which he replied, “Absolutely!" Here is the van at Ambasador Limo looking good as new.
With Jo Clothier’s permission, we notified the media and set the van transfer for the morning of July 28th. While she would love to have been present, Dorothy Locascio was unable to attend due to a flair-up of her arthritis.
What a treat it was to pull the van into the driveway with cameras rolling and hand the keys to Tristan's parents! Standing by to film and interview participants were reporters and cameramen from ABC Action News, 10 Connects WTSP-TV, Fox 13, BayNews9, and Tampa Bay Newspapers. The story was featured on five p.m. news telecasts on TV Channels 10, 11, and 13, and aired every hour for two days on cable TV provider BayNews9.
Tristan's parents spent two hours talking to reporters, expressing their deep appreciation for this gift of mobility.
As he did during our first encounter, Tristan slept through all of the exitement, but did awake after the reporters left! All three broadcast networks did an excellent job sharing the story with their viewers. Here's BayNews9's online abridged version of its account:
Donated van changes life of Pinellas Park family
By Robert Hahn, Reporter
PINELLAS PARK -- A van has changed the life of a Pinellas Park family. A wheelchair-accessible van was donated to the family of 5-year-old Tristan Clothier-Goldade. Among other conditions, Tristan has Down's Syndrome and West Syndrome (a form of epilepsy) and had grown too big to transport in a car seat to school, doctors, and therapies.
"He's medically challenged," said Tristan's mother, Jo Clothier. "And this'll just be a lot easier to get him in and out, so we can get everybody in one van."
It's an opportunity thanks to the Abilities Foundation through its B & G Endowment. Abilities Foundation President Frank De Lucia said the people who donated the van were more than happy to help. "They were delighted with that prospect, especially because the van was donated back to the B & G endowment and it was put to immediate use today with Jo Clothier and her son, Tristan," De Lucia said.
"It's just a wonderful gift from them, actually from God I think," Clothier said. "It's a blessing."
Brian wrote: With all the bad news that gets reported, it was heartwarming to read a story about an act of kindness and generosity, it's nice to know there is still compassion in this world for those who are truly in need. God Bless!
Lynn wrote: What a wonderful, caring act of kindness from the Abilities Foundation! Yes, there still are people who care about others who are truly in need.
Mike wrote: There ya go! PROOF there are Angels here with us! So all you bad people "Take Note".
Jenn wrote: That is awesome!! I'm glad to see a family got what was needed & deserved to care for their child. God Bless!
Here is a newspaper account of the donation:
Tristan Clothier’s parents are thrilled with the recent donation of a van that
will help them take care of his needs.
PINELLAS PARK – The parents of a young boy suffering from Down syndrome and other challenges recently received a van that will enable them to transport him to doctors and other places with ease. The Abilities Foundation’s B & G Endowment presented the wheelchair accessible van to Don and Jo Clothier whose son, Tristan, 5, suffers from Down syndrome and West syndrome, a form of epilepsy.
“We are absolutely thrilled over the van,” Jo Clothier said. “This will help us transport Tristan to and from doctor appointments, to school and everyplace else he needs to go.”
Tristan was born on March 4, 2005, 34 weeks premature and weighing just over 4 pounds. He faces dramatic medical problems and is being treated at St. Petersburg’s All Children’s Hospital. The parents themselves were facing many challenges transporting Tristan. His weight climbed to more than 50 pounds and lifting him in and out of a regular car was difficult.
Don is an auto mechanic. The couple recently purchased their home that within weeks needed thousands of dollars in air conditioning and heating system repairs. “We needed a way to move Tristan around so I got on the Internet and discovered the Abilities Foundation,” Jo Clothier said. “We could not afford to buy a van with all the essentials our son needs.”
Don Clothier echoed much of his wife’s statement, adding, "We’ve always worked for the things we need. I never took anything from anyone, but we accept the donation of this van with gratitude.”
The family has a daughter, Tess, 11, and an adult son who lives near Tampa.
The B & G Endowment was established by longtime Foundation trustee and national disability rights advocate George Locascio, who died last December. It provides disabled Floridians ways to meet emergency health, housing, and work-related needs. Locascio’s wife, Dorothy, and family members donated his customized van to the foundation, hoping it could serve another person with disability. “I’m thrilled to learn this beautiful young boy will get the transportation he needs,” Dorothy Locascio said. “I’m certain George is beaming with approval over this.”
“We are delighted to connect two families through this contribution,” said Frank De Lucia, president and CEO of the Abilities Foundation. “George was insistent upon ensuring that people with disabilities have access to everything community life has to offer. This is exactly what his endowment aspires to achieve.”
The van was officially donated to the family at their home at 7113 63rd St. It was fully detailed courtesy of Ambassador Limousine and Sedan of Clearwater prior.