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Family experiences season of giving

A month ago, Mary Detweiler was dreading the start of winter.

Winter means ice and snow and treacherous footing when she lifts her eight-year-old daughter Julianna into the family van. Julianna has a rare genetic disease called Aicardi syndrome, which causes seizures, brain cysts and developmental delays. She’s also a growing girl, making the need for a wheelchair lift for their van – a lift the Detweilers couldn’t afford – more pressing.

Mary Detweiler will soon have an easier time helping daughter Julianna into the family van, after the community pitched in to raise money for a wheelchair lift.
Mary Detweiler will soon have an easier time helping daughter Julianna into the family van, after the community pitched in to raise money for a wheelchair lift.

These days, when Mary lifts Julianna, there’s a weight off her shoulders. A lift will be installed on their van next month, thanks to a number of people in the community who pitched in to help.

“We were blown away by what they did,” an emotional Mary said Monday. “Strangers, friends and family, Julianna’s school … it’s more than we ever thought.”

Mary and her husband Harold received two offers of lifts after Julianna’s story appeared in the Observer, but they had to decline as the lifts were incompatible with their van.

Other people pitched in with the funds to help the Detweilers pay for the right lift. Almost $2,000 was contributed to the “Lift Up Julianna” trust account they set up at the Royal Bank by early December.

On top of those contributions, the Grade 3 class at Julianna’s school, St. Mary in Elora, made chocolate lollipops and donated candy canes for a fundraiser that raised $1,100.

At the same time that the Detweilers were presented with a cheque from the school, they received a cheque from Marj’s Village Kitchen in Alma, where the owners and staff donated their Christmas bonuses.

The family also received a major donation from Shoppers Drug Mart through its Working In Support of Hope (WISH) campaign which supports employees and their families. Mary’s brother-in-law Alan McLeod, a property manager with Shoppers, raised the Detweilers’ need with the WISH committee, which donated $5,000 toward the installation of the lift. As well, Sparrowhawk Industries in Waterloo, a division of Shoppers Home Health, has discounted the installation quote from to $7,000 from $8,785.

And another donation is still coming from employees at Harold’s workplace, Toyota Boshoku in Elmira and the Toyota plant in Woodstock. On Dec. 15, employees signed up to work for an hour or two and donate their wages to Julianna, raising more than $10,000.

“One guy put 20 hours on the sheet,” said Mary, amazed.

With all the funds contributed, the Detweilers have been able to order the wheelchair lift. It’s currently on back order, but will be installed sometime next month.

Any funds left over will be put in trust for Julianna until the day when they can add an extra bedroom with an overhead lift and give her siblings, Jessica and Devin, their own rooms.

“We don’t mind waiting,” Mary said. “We’re just speechless. People have gone out of their way to give us a hand.”

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