Family grateful for van help

Tina Comeau
Published on August 28, 2012

Jalissa MacLellan sits in her wheelchair next to her family’s van with her grandmother Marion Fitzgerald, her mother Susan MacLellan and her aunt Sandra Cobbett.




By Tina Comeau



Every night Jalissa MacLellan and her family and some of her friends take a BTT.


A burn through town, says her mother Susan.

They pump up some of Jalissa’s favourite tunes sung by Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and One Direction and everyone sings along.

It’s a happy time, made even more so by how easily it has now become for Jalissa’s family to transport her to places she needs to get to – or, in the case of their BTTs, just giving the family the freedom to easily go for a drive.

The van they drive in is one that was purchased for the family through the President’s Choice Children’s Charities, a charity committed to supporting children’s health and wellness across Canada.

The van the family now owns used to belong to HOPE (Handicapped Organization Promoting Equality) in Yarmouth. The van is equipped with a ramp that Jalissa can wheel right up onto to get in and out of the van.

“It comes in handy for Jalissa because before we were having to lift her mobile wheelchair in and out of the trunk. And lifting her in and out of the car. It’s hard on your back after awhile,” says Susan MacLellan.

Jalissa, who will be a Grade 5 student this year, suffers from a condition called Hurler Syndrome, which has left her paralyzed and dependent on her motorized wheelchair. Through her life she has had to endure many surgeries and has more coming up over the next year.

But she’s also a young girl who likes to hang out with her friends and do things with her family and so giving her the added mobility to be able to do this from a transportation standpoint has proven to be a valuable asset for Jalissa and her family.

The family heard about the President’s Choice Children’s Charity from Lisa Scott, a funding coordinator at the IWK Children’s Hospital. They also heard about it from an employee of the Yarmouth Superstore.

The responsibility for finding the van was left to the family, but the children’s charity donated $20,000 for the family to purchase it.

Linda Vickery at the HOPE centre assisted the family with the purchase. The van was bought for $15,000. President’s Choice told the family they could put the remainder of the money towards another purchase. The family intends to purchase a Hippocampe, an all-terrain type of wheelchair that will allow Jalissa to ride over terrain and uneven ground that she might struggle with in her motorized wheelchair, such as at the beach, in the woods or on hills. While the family looks forward to that purchase, they are still so happy to have the wheelchair accessible van in their lives.

“To have these charities help families like us, it’s remarkable. We’re so grateful,” says Jalissa’s mom.