A single, disabled mom living in Suffolk County, NY, received a life-changing holiday miracle gift on Monday. Theresa Thomas was presented with a refurbished Chrysler Town & Country wheelchair accessible van at Bussani Mobility Team in Smithtown, NY, where she became the second annual recipient of the company’s Peter Zarba Memorial Van Donation Program. New Beginnings (a community center for brain injury rehabilitation) arranged the introduction between the two parties that has made this heart-felt wish come true.
A former nurse, Theresa became severely disabled 7 years ago at the age of 39 by a genetic condition triggered during pregnancy that left her confined to bed. She has two sons, aged 15 and 7. And her mother, aged 70, uses a wheelchair as a result of a brain injury and two strokes. As Theresa’s condition worsened and she was no
longer able to leave the house, let alone work, the family fell homeless and lived in shelters for several years and the children moved from school to school. The struggles they endured, just to live a basic life with food, shelter, and schooling, were unimaginable. But she never gave up fighting…to get well, to find a place for her family to live, to give back.
With the wheelchair accessible van, Theresa will be mobile again. She will regain her independence and be able to take care of her family in the way they were accustomed to before her physical disability set in.
Overjoyed at the presentation ceremony, Theresa Thomas said: “They didn’t give us a van. They gave us life…This beautiful gift allows us the ability to have a productive future. I can return to work, continue school, and begin to provide for my family again. All these things would never have been possible without your grace. We will live in a perpetual state of ‘pay it forward.’ You are Christmas angels to us and we thank you kindly for this immense Christmas blessing!”
Theresa is working to finish her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology so she can become a social worker and live a life of service to others. She eventually wants to open a not-for-profit in Suffolk County connecting the disabled, mentally ill, homeless, and veterans to the many resources Long Island has to offer.
“There’s no end to what this remarkable woman will do to help her family and the disabled community here on Long Island now that she has her own wheelchair accessible vehicle to get around,” said Daniel Bussani, Vice President at Bussani Mobility Team. “She has big dreams. With her perseverance, strength and compassion, we have no doubt that she’ll reach every one of them and she’ll touch many lives for the good.”
The van was donated by a Bussani Mobility Team customer and refurbished by the company. Two other local automotive companies contributed to the effort: Third Generation Auto Body (donated the body work) and Don’s Hand Car Wash (donated the detail work).
Bussani Mobility Team
) is a leading provider of automotive mobility products and services for people with disabilities. The company helps people with disabilities regain the freedom and independence to go where they want to go and do what they want to do. Established in 1974 with headquarters in Bethpage, NY (Nassau County) and with offices in Smithtown (Suffolk County), Mamaroneck (Westchester County) and Long Island City (Queens), Bussani Mobility Team is a market leader in the Tri-State (NY, NJ, CT) area. The company’s team of experts offers: a complete line of wheelchair vans and mobility equipment from top manufacturers available for purchase or rental, wheelchair accessible taxis, a full-service automotive shop, 24-hour emergency service, special financing options, insurance services, educational opportunities, and in-store consultants who are dedicated to meeting their customers’ every need with a highly personal touch.
), a not-for-profit 501©3, was founded by Allyson Barone Scerri after her father suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2007. Allyson quickly realized that as a caregiver in a family hit by TBI, there was a serious lack of coordinated services and her vision was to have them all connected under one roof. In April of 2010 Allyson opened the doors to a state of the art, never before seen facility for TBI rehab where all necessary modalities of treatment including Hyperbaric Oxygen are found under that one roof. Her facility is praised by medical professionals who are world renowned experts in the TBI field. She has geared the facility to be a Community Center that reaches out to TBI victims as well as victims of all other cognitive & physically disabling conditions and their caregiving families.
by guest blogger Liz Treston
My name is Liz. Of all the things I did not plan on was becoming an expert in spinal cord injury and diseases. I am an expert through life not books. My methods of teaching vary dependent upon my audience. If you’re in an elementary class at Career Day, I’m not going to go into details about proper bowel evacuation. I will, however, always be honest.
Honesty can be brutal at times. Depending on how long you’ve been in the exclusive club of SCI/D might also effect whether you read my article further. How did you get here? Did you fall out of a tree, miss a turn, smack a shoreline, a gene screwed with your body’s makeup, or you slid on silk sheets out of bed?
It doesn’t really matter. You are here. In that sense, that’s the first step on any journey. Being here. I can either be your mentor or the crazy lady with the dog. It’s perception. Isn’t that what we deal with every day? Society’s perception of our abilities? Our strengths and weaknesses? It can get exhausting being judged all the time. I should know. It’s one of my faults, judging people. I’m working on it.
After a SCI/D, we all go through our own personal journeys. It’s complicated. That’s a weak word. It’s beyond complicated, but you already know that. Eventually we figure out how to maneuver through the hallway again. We adapt to a life that was not planned.
Frankly, nobody’s life is set out on an agenda. We ride along with varying hills and mountains. Sometimes we come across a crevice and just want to fall in, but we don’t. We adapt.
We return to work, school. We return to our prior roles of mother, wife, husband, student, athlete, friend, employee, employer, artist or lawyer. Eventually we begin to transition to a new normal. One of the things about being human is our desire to be close to another human. It’s something about biology.
There have been a number of studies on sex and disabilities; not surprisingly, most involve men. Not that I have anything against men but, I want my body studied too!
In my workshops and presentations, I try to break stereotypes. Stereotypes you may have had before you found yourself in our little exclusive club. One of the biggest misperceptions is sex.
Yes, I can.
Yes, he can.
Yes, she can too.
Yes we do.
Together, we can help dispel the myths that a piece of fancy titanium attached to us makes us asexual.
Liz Treston a mentor with NYSCIA. She and her Canine Companion for Independence service dog, Finney, are a spokesperson team for Hearthfire (a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the role of the artist as a catalyst for personal and global evolution). She has also been very active with emergency preparedness efforts since Hurricane Sandy hit our area. Nassau County’s Executive Ed Mangano has honored her for her service to the community. Liz is available for panel discussions and conferences on a number of subjects focusing on advocacy, personal growth, and persons with disabilities in emergency and disaster preparation.