Wisconsin native hopes to win mobility van

(WEAU) - May is National Mobility Month and more than 18 million people in the United States and Canada have mobility issues.

You may remember our story on Danny Knoll, a disabled boy from Black River Falls hoping to win a mobility van. Another local native is hoping for the same dream.

It's a national contest that picks three people to receive fully accessible wheelchair vans.

A western Wisconsin woman is on the edge of becoming a finalist and is looking for a better way around thanks to her childhood classmates.

"The drunk driver behind us didn't stop and he ran into us,” said Shannon Thomas, who grew up in Brill, Wisconsin.

Shannon Thomas was only eight years old when her ability to walk was taken away, killing her 9 and 7 year old best friends.

"I broke my back basically and there was swelling because of the broken bone and the swelling crushed my spinal cord,” said Thomas.

Diagnosed as a paraplegic, Shannon returned to school in Brill, Wisconsin, just outside Rice Lake, scared of what her friends would think.

"When I got back to school they were very supportive and very welcoming,” said Thomas.

Then in 5th grade, she met Tracy Humke now a Special Education Teacher at Stanley Boyd.

"With Shannon we would spend recess with her and lunch with her, because she couldn't go outside. The school wasn't handicapped accessible,” said Humke.

Although it's 30 years later, Tracy still remembers Shannon's upbeat personality and smile.

"I think she was someone that motivated me. It was my first experience working with someone with a disability,” said Humke.

But it's a disability that's restricting 43-year-old Shannon who currently lives in Oregon.

"I do have a mobility van right now but is 15 years old and it keeps dying on me. It’s died on me 3 times in the last week,” said Thomas.

She says the average mobility van costs around $60,000. It’s something Shannon says would change her life as she puts her time toward helping others.

"I work for a non-profit organization and I volunteer at a children's hospital. I do art with the kids, the patients in the hospital,” said Thomas.

"I've missed days of works because I have no way to get there,” said Thomas.

But her childhood classmates aren't giving up as the finish line draws closer. Her contestant page has gained more than 12 thousand votes.

"I'm so surprised by my classmates and how enthusiastic they've been and how much they want me to win,” said Thomas.

"She will be independent and not have to rely someone else to help her and someone else to drive her,” said Humke.

"It’s kind of my world. I can't really get anywhere without it,” said Thomas.

Voting ends on May 10th and the top 5% of vote will go to the final round, where they will be judged in front of a panel. The top three winners will be selected on May 30th.

To cast your vote, click below

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