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Shearstown family fundraising for wheelchair accessible van

Sarah Clarke, 12, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy in the early stages of her life.
Sarah Clarke, 12, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy in the early stages of her life. - Submitted

Total costs coming to $65,000

SHEARSTOWN, NL — One Shearstown family is working hard to make sure their daughter has what she needs to get through life.

Sarah Clarke, 12, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy when she was just an infant. She struggles with walking and relies on a wheelchair or walker to get around.

Clarke’s family needs a wheelchair accessible van to allow her to travel properly. Without one, her mother Ayla Tipple says it would be nearly impossible for her daughter to get out and about.

The family already owns a van, but the vehicle is old and has mechanical problems with the transmission and engine. There’s currently 160,000 kilometres on the speedometer, leaving the family uneasy about how much longer the 2005 model will last them.

Tipple and the rest of Sarah’s family have banded together to start fundraising efforts to purchase a new van, as well as a brand-new walker and wheelchair to better accommodate the growing girl, who will soon be approaching her teenage years.

“When we noticed the van’s transmission was going a couple months ago, we started to plan some fundraising for a new one, because we knew we were eventually going to need it,” said Tipple. “Now, it’s gotten a lot worse than we were anticipating, a lot quicker than we were anticipating, so we feel a little heat to come up with the money for a new one as soon as we can.”

Doctors at the Janeway recently discovered Sarah has developed 30-degree curvature in her spine. This means she’ll require a new standing frame.

Tipple said they are currently looking at a second-hand van with wheelchair accessible equipment that would run them approximately $46,000, though they are not the first group to enquire about it. The standing frame was quoted at just under $4,900.

A new walker for Clarke will run the family approximately $7,000, Tipple added. This is a cost that won’t be covered by insurance, as Tipple explained a walker is not seen as a necessity.

This has not hindered the efforts of the family, however, as they are always looking for new ways to help with the costs associated with Clarke’s condition. Tipple recently sent in an application to a government-run program called the Special Assistance Program with hopes that this program may see Clarke’s walker as a necessity.

“There are some more options for us. For the van, for example, there are some grants we can go through, but some of them have up to a four-year wait list. We’ve been told that if the need is grave, then they may fast-track it, but we’ll see about that,” she said.

The community has also played a big role thus far in the fundraising efforts for the family. Tipple told The Compass plenty of people have reached out over the last few weeks, such as the Bay Roberts Dominion location, who are looking into working alongside Tipple to do something to help raise money for Clarke.

The Lion’s Club is also helping, with a gospel concert in the works for Saturday, June 9. Any money collected at the door for this event will be matched by the Lions Club, according to Tipple, so the family is looking forward to this especially.

“We’re really grateful for all the efforts everyone’s made to help out so far,” Tipple said. “Now, we’re working to see what else we can do to get the funds. The grand total that we need to fundraise is roughly $65,000, so anything we can do will help.”

Social media has served as a means for anyone to follow Clarke’s story, where her Facebook page, Sharing Sarah’s Smile, has garnered almost 300 likes. There, upcoming fundraising efforts and other such events are posted well in advance for anyone looking to attend.

Anyone hoping to help raise funds can send a donation to: via email money transfer. This email is linked to Sarah’s own bank account, dedicated solely to funds raised.

“Sarah is a strong girl who loves everything about life. She’s always on the go, and always has a smile to share,” Tipple said of her daughter. “We just want to make sure she can live her life to the fullest, always.”

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