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Community effort raises money for wheelchair accessible van for 7th grade student

May 18, 2018, 11:41 PM | Updated: 11:43 pm

AMERICAN FORK, Utah – With a band playing, American flag waving and hundreds of students gathered for an outside assembly, Friday was the end of a yearlong effort to help a seventh grade student in need.

Kevin Baillargeon was born without arms and legs. When the 13-year-old started school in September at American Fork Jr. High, the principal noticed he would sometimes have to leave his wheelchair at school.

“They said they had a van that had broken down, and every time we had a break or he was sick, he had to leave his wheelchair here,” said Jeff Schoonover, the principal at American Fork Jr. High.

Schoonover began thinking of ways to help Kevin have access to a wheelchair accessible van. But when he found the price tag of a new van was in the $40,000 range, he realized his school couldn’t do it alone, so he recruited several schools in the Alpine district to join the effort. Schools in the area raised money during dances, at halftime of sporting events and in April, “Kevin’s Karnival” raised more than $30,000, during a day-long fundraiser.

“And to watch all of these schools and our students give back, was the best part of the whole thing,” Schoonover added.

“May or may not have been crying a little bit,” said Trevor Pettit, a student at American Fork High School.

He was one of the many high school students who worked all year long to raise money for the van and helped to organize the carnival.

“Everything came together in one big moment and I can’t describe how awesome it was,” he added.

That awesome moment, when for the first time, Kevin was able to get into a van, all by himself and his school erupted with cheers.

“It will make it so I will be able to bring my wheelchair most places,” he said.

And will give this soon-to-be eighth grader, more independence and opportunities in the future. A moment that his family says is like a dream come true.

“I can’t thank these kids enough and Mr. Schoonover and the schools on how much they have done for us, they have shown us so much support and it has been unreal,” said Matt Williamson, Kevin’s caregiver.

 

In all, the community effort raised more than $80,000 for Kevin. Performance Mobility of Sandy gave the school a discount on the van, and others involved worked overtime for days to get it ready. The remaining money will be used for a college scholarship for Kevin.

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Community effort raises money for wheelchair accessible van for 7th grade student