Lombard family hopes to win handicap-accessible van

LOMBARD – For the third consecutive year, Lombard resident Deborah Dobbs is trying to win a handicap-accessible van.

The van will allow her to take better care of her 17-year-old daughter, Courtney Kestner, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.

“There are a lot of things that as a growing child, she could benefit from,” Dobbs said. “It’s just been very difficult because I can’t give her the full life that I want to give her.”

Dobbs recently entered the MobilityWorks Local Heroes contest, which will award three handicap-accessible vans to individuals living with a disability or who have dedicated their time to helping someone with a disability.

Both of those criteria apply for Dobbs, who last year was diagnosed as disabled after developing a hernia and arthritis, she said.

“I have developed a hernia through lifting Courtney,” Dobbs said, who occasionally uses a wheelchair herself to get around. “It’s very dangerous to get her in and out of the van. We’re not out to get something that we don’t truly need.”

This is the third year MobilityWorks has offered the contest in conjunction with the National Mobility Equipment Dealer’s Association’s (NMEDA) National Mobility Month, and the third year Dobbs has submitted an entry.

This year, however, instead of entering Courtney, Dobbs entered herself as a contestant, believing b she may have better luck since she is the licensed driver.

As Courtney has grown, it has become increasingly more difficult for Dobbs and Courtney’s godfather, Rick Gentry, to lift her in and out of the family’s 2003 Chevy Venture mini-van, Dobbs said.

“To do anything is a major ordeal,” Dobbs said, explaining that Gentry, her boyfriend, cannot lift Courtney because he receives dialysis and is on the waiting list for a new kidney. “Having the van would open so many doors for this family. I never thought it was such an important thing until she started getting heavier.”

Courtney, a junior at Glenbard East High School, is nonverbal, but communicates with her family, friends and teachers by using sounds and hand movements. She is very aware of what is happening around her, and very sociable, Dobbs said.

“She loves people,” Dobbs said. “She may not talk but she expresses herself in a lot of ways. I just wish I could do more for her.”