The life-changing ordeal of becoming wheelchair bound has many challenges during recovery including finding adequate transportation.
MIAMI – The goal is set for Owen Looper, to become as strong and independent as possible as he moves forward in life. The life-changing ordeal of becoming wheelchair bound has many challenges during recovery including finding adequate transportation. In an effort to help Owen, a Fairland teen who became partially paralyzed, Vance Ford has stepped up.
Vance Ford in Miami is committing $25 per vehicle sale through the month of February to Owen's recovery.
Owen’s father, John Looper, said his wife Debbie was discussing the need for a specially adapted van to transport Owen when Vance Ford salesman Stevie Nowlin came up with the idea.
Nowlin said Vance Ford finds ways to give back to the community and when heard Owen’s story he knew he wanted to help. Along with raising donations for Owen, Nowlin hopes to raise awareness against bullying.
“I live in Fairland and I’m pretty good friends with John Looper so I kept up with the story and wanted to do something. I talked to all the guys and asked them if they wanted to be a part of it because I was going to do it myself and I got five of the other guys to do it,” Nowlin said. "We try to give back as much as we can. We love to give back to the community. We’ve done things with Ace Hardware, the Fire Department and for Breast Cancer Awareness. We wanted to help Owen out - he’s a local kid.”
Vance Ford salesmen Bryan Provence, Kevin Bass, Chad Nowlin and John Garner have joined Nowlin in the donation effort. Donations will also be added by anyone who wants to contribute to the Vance Ford effort and can be given to the salesmen involved.
“We wanted to do something to help stop bullying because obviously nobody wants to be bullied. So if you can reach out and stop it some way or help someone from getting bullied eventually, we wanted to start this campaign and help Owen out,” Nowlin said.
Vance Ford is located at 510 North Main Street in Miami.
“Everything that we sell new or used we have a group of five guys here in the sales department and we’re going to take $25 per every vehicle we sell and at the end of the month get a check made and deliver it to Owen,” Nowlin said. “Hopefully everything goes well and we can deliver the check to him in person at home. We just wanted to help with all his expenses.”
“We’re grateful for everything,” John said. “They are saying it will be about a year before Owen is prepared and ready to drive, but I don’t know if it will be that long. The vehicle we are looking to get is set up just for him to be a passenger in and typically they’re vans or minivans.”
With a specially adapted van, Owen will be able to get out and travel with his family.
John said Owen has a regular cab Dodge pickup truck, which may not work for Owen’s needs to accommodate his chair but the goal is in the future to fit and adapt a vehicle that would allow Owen to drive.
As Owen’s ability to make transfers from his chair improves and with more rehab and if he’s employed or going to school there may be some financial assistance with equipment, according to John.
The victim of a Nov. 3, 2017 violent attack, Owen, 19, suffered a broken neck and complete fracture to the C6-7 vertebrae, which left him with no feeling or movement below his chest. Owen was grabbed from behind, picked up and slammed to the ground by another teen leaving him paralyzed.
After ICU care and surgeries, Owen was transferred to Denver Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado for 12 weeks of spinal cord rehabilitation. For weeks now Owen has been pushing hard through intensive physical therapy and medical treatments to recover from the injury that resulted in paraplegia causing him to be wheelchair bound.
His family has been by his side throughout Owen's rehabilitation, and they are working together to provide for his new needs.
Owen is scheduled for a tentative release from the Denver rehabilitation center on Mar. 8, but his father said Owen may stay longer for two to three more weeks of outpatient treatment if insurance allows.
Owen’s mother and stepfather, Rex and Jennifer Delamatter, are building a wheelchair accessible apartment addition onto their home to accommodate Owen.
“They’re making good progress with it,” John said.
Owen's recovery includes first regaining his health, building strength, improving his balance, learning to maneuver his chair and learning ways to overcome the obstacles faced because of his paralysis.
Owen’s father John Looper said his son has endured much in his journey to recovery.
“He’s getting stronger in his arms and his triceps. He’s still left arm dominant, and there’s still nothing with his hands or fingers. There’s a lot of tricks these people teach him how to deal with this,” John said. “You can tell when he feels good and when he doesn’t. It shows in his face and enthusiasm.”
John said Owen loves to tease other people and he can tell when his son is feeling better when that side of him comes out.
Owen’s family said they have received a great outpouring of love and support from the community and friends. Many follow Owen’s recovery on the ‘Owen’s Journey’ Facebook page detailing his progress.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.