Lombard teen hoping to win van in contest

LOMBARD — Courtney Kestner is the ultimate girly-girl, her mother says. The two have spa nights at home, she gets her hair done by friends at school and likes to dress in glamorous clothes.

The 16-year-old girl has lived in Lombard for two years and, like any teen, is quickly becoming more mature and independent.

Courtney has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

As she grows, it’s becoming more difficult for her mother, Deborah Dobbs, and her godfather, Rick Gentry, to lift her in and out of the car. In the hopes of getting some help, she’s competing in an online voting contest with the hope of winning a van for people with disabilities.

“I think the hardest thing is the transportation,” Dobbs said. “Now that she’s getting older, it hit me in the last couple years that it’s not going to be easy anymore.”

MobilityWorks, a nationwide company that provides accessible vans, will give away vans to three winners with special features to suit their individual needs. The contestants who receive the top five percent of votes will move on to the next round, where a panel of judges will determine who receives the vans.

This the second year MobilityWorks has offered the contest, and Courtney’s second year participating.

When the Kestners moved to Lombard, the bigger home with hardwood floors and wider doorways opened up new opportunities for her, said her mother. She learned how to move her wheelchair independently and is able to spend time out on the family’s backyard deck.

“If she won a van, who knows what she could do?” Dobbs said.

Courtney also is non-verbal, but communicates with her family, friends and teachers at Glenbard East High School by using sounds and hand movements. Her mother said she’s still very aware of what’s happening around her.

“For the most part, she’s a really happy, cheerful little girl,” Dobbs said. “She wants the simple things in life that everyone else takes for granted.”

Courtney, her mother said, enjoys music and painting, and likes pretty clothes and the doll collection given to her by her godfather.

The contest to win an accessible van requires online voting by friends, family members and supporters. To get the word out, Dobbs said she learned how to use social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. She said her daughter has inspired her.

Currently she has more than 2,000 votes, but her mother anticipates she’ll need many more in order to secure a place in the final round. If she doesn’t get the van, Dobbs said she’ll go back to the drawing board to try to find another way to help her daughter.

“She gets robbed of normal experiences,” she said. “She needs some adventure in her life."

Vote online

Visit mobilityawarenessmonth.com and search for Courtney Kestner to vote for her to win an accessible van. Voting ends May 11.