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Public praised for helping housebound teen

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Jonathan Marshall-Symonds is finally mobile — and has the public to thank for it. His mother asked for help after the teenager, who was born with cerebral palsy, outgrew the family car and was confined to his home.

The family was inundated with support after Sheila Marshall's emotional appeal in The Royal Gazette this month.

Within two weeks they received $22,000 and were able to purchase a wheelchair-accessible van advertised on eMoo. The previous owners reduced the price in a bid to help.

“It was awesome the way it happened,” Ms Marshall said. “It was so fast and God really worked for that one because without all of that support, I could never have afforded it on my own.

“I was so scared that we wouldn't get the car but I knew I had to get Jonathan out of the house and get him back to school and his normal routine.

“He likes to be on the go and hates being stuck at home, but with him in the wheelchair we couldn't go anywhere.

“I couldn't just pick him up and put him into any car. The last time I tried to do that I broke his leg by accident.”

Ms Marshall said their old car would be put to good use — she intends to give it to the family of another young man with cerebral palsy, 21-year-old Jaime Brangman.

Jonathan, 17, has been confined to a wheelchair since birth because of the neurological condition. He also suffers from learning difficulties.

He had surgery last summer after doctors found his spine was curving 118 degrees into his stomach. It constricted his breathing and affected his bowels and his ability to eat. Boston Children's Hospital straightened out the curve — but the operation left him too tall to fit into the family's car without getting hurt.

The teenager was stuck at home, unable to go to school, church or any extra-curricular activities for nearly a year.

His mother said that being stuck indoors and away from other people was starting to impact his mood.

But the teenager was full of smiles on Monday when he got to visit his friends at Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy for the first time in months.

“Jonathan went for a visit to school yesterday and will have a couple more visits before going back,” his mother said.

“We are trying to take it slow because he hasn't been to school in almost a year and it can be overwhelming for him.

“He also went and visited his family on Sunday and we drove around for a little while. He just wanted to stay in the car and look at everything outside.

“I asked him at one point ‘Are you ready to go home?' And his response was ‘Not yet'.

“He was so happy, which made me happy. I love to see the smile on his face and knowing he's okay makes me stronger.”

Ms Marshall said she could not find the words to thank the community for its support.

“Everyone was just so willing to help and I'm so grateful for all of that,” she said.

“It makes me emotional. I start to cry just thinking about it.

“It makes my heart heavy because so many people came forward to help us.

“It showed me there are some really great people out there in the world.”

As a single mother, Ms Marshall said she was used to doing everything on her own and had been a little scared about making her public appeal.

“It took everything in me to ask, but in the end I knew I had to do it for Jonathan,” she said. “I do everything for him. He's my life.”

Some people who contacted her were apprehensive about giving and wanted to make sure that there was a legitimate need.

For the most part, people were extremely supportive. One man came to drop off his donation in person; others talked with Jonathan on the phone.

The Brangman family is now on a fundraising quest to pay for a new engine and necessary repairs to the van they received from the Marshalls.

Miles of smiles: Sheila Marshall and son Jonathan Marshall-Symonds are thrilled with their new wheelchair-accessible vehicle, which the community helped them to pay for. Jonathan, 17, had been unable to get out for nearly a year after outgrowing the family car, and being stuck at home away from his school, church and his friends was affecting his mood (Photos by Akil Simmons)
Out and about: Jonathan Marshall-Symonds on board his family's new car preparing for a visit to see his friends at Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Sheila Marshall and son Jonathan Marshall-Symonds are all smiles after the community helped them to raise money for a new car. It is the first time they have been able to get out and about in nearly a year. Before that the family was left without transportation after Jonathan, who suffers from cerebral palsy, outgrew the family car (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Katherine Brangman and son Jaime Brangman have been given the Marshall family's old car - but they need to raise $16,000 to cover the repairs and insurance (Photo by Akil Simmons)
<p>Family’s plea for help to get back on road</p>

Jaime Brangman might have cerebral palsy, but he tries not to let it slow him down.

The 21-year-old has represented the Island throughout North America in the para-sport Bocce.

He also attends regular classes and programmes at Government’s Opportunity Workshop.

But one thing that is hindering his progress is not having access to any transportation.

His mother, Katherine Brangman, said the family had been having a rough time since their car was written off.

Ms Brangman has been out of work since December and cannot afford to settle the $710 bill they owe for having the car inspected and towed away by Auto Solutions.

But the family has been given a ray of hope.

Sheila Marshall, the mother of one of Jaime’s former classmates, has offered them her old car.

There is one setback. Ms Brangman will need to raise $15,000 to pay for the car’s repairs, then another $1,000 to have it insured.

“Without having the car it’s been challenging,” said Ms Brangman, 53.

“Jaime is representing Bermuda in a wheelchair sport called Bocce ball, but there are times when we have to rely on his coach to pick him up and sometimes that’s not even possible.

“Aside from that, caring for him sometimes takes a physical toll on me. I’ve been suffering with sciatica for the past 18 months, which means it’s really painful to bathe and dry him.

“Having Sheila’s car would be great because Jaime could wheel himself right into it, be more independent and go to more places.”

Ms Brangman also believes the car will allow her to run errands and find part-time work. “It would just give us a huge peace of mind, independence and feeling like we have a balanced life,” she said.

“Now I’m stuck in the house and even when Jaime comes home, anything we want to do outside of the house isn’t possible without a car.

“I don’t want Jamie to lose his independence. He is so highly motivated and determined. No matter what his challenge he has learned how to overcome it.

“Sometimes I try to help him and he says, ‘Mom let me try it first’.”

Anyone who is able to help the Brangman family is encouraged to call 236-1982.

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Published March 25, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated March 25, 2015 at 5:36 pm)

Public praised for helping housebound teen

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