A single mom from Bellevue is fundraising for a safer wheelchair accessible van for three of her kids who have a rare disorder.
Stacey Labrada's three sons: LJ, 19, Joshua, 16, and Antonio, 13, were diagnosed with a progressive condition that affects their muscles called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Labrada says it's a hereditary disease that has weakened their muscles, resulting in them losing their ability to walk and relying on a power wheelchair full-time.
"I never thought this was going to happen," says Labrada. "I knew it was a possibility because it's in my family. 13 members of my family have been diagnosed with the disease - three of them have died from it. My cousin just died from it a few weeks ago."
The boys were diagnosed with the disease when they were toddlers, but they didn't stop walking until nearly three years ago.
Joshua was the first one to stop after he broke his ankle. He began losing strength and ultimately needed to start using a wheelchair. His older brother, LJ voluntarily gave up walking so his brother wouldn't feel left out. As a result of him not exercising his muscles, he eventually lost his ability to walk.
"I was upset that I could walk and he couldn't - so I didn't want him to feel alone, so I stopped walking," says LJ. "We had a special bond and I didn't want him to feel left out."
Antonio, the youngest of Labrada's five kids, can still walk, but uses his wheelchair full-time. He gets tired and has back pain after a few minutes of walking. He also falls a lot.
"I can't walk very long. I get tired. So I'm just always on my chair," says Antonio.
Labrada borrows her ex-husband's old van to take the boys to and from medical appointments. Her ex took out the back seats, put a wooden cover on the floor, and made a ramp for the boys to get on and off.
But with no bolted seats or railings, it's not handicap accessible and Labrada worries about her kids falling over.
"If I'm in there for a while, it gets uncomfortable," says Joshua. "I'm also always worried about tipping over or sliding."
"LJ's chair is taller. So he's often cramped in there with head tilted so he doesn't hit the roof of the van," says Labrada. "I can just see how much weight is holding the van down. And then sometimes I try and put three of them in there, plus my nephew's wheelchair, so that's four wheelchairs in that van. It's not safe."
The family has been trying to raise money for a newer and safer van made especially for the boys' wheelchair needs for almost a year. Last September, they held a car wash that raised a couple hundred dollars.
"My grandpa still has that money in the account so we're just going to keep going until we can make enough," says Labrada's oldest daughter, Tatiana.
The family needs to raise several thousands dollars to be able to get a van that is wheelchair accessible, or purchase a new one that can be redesigned to make the appropriate accommodations for wheelchairs.
"Something with a sturdy ramp."
Friends and family members have organized a fundraising yard sale to help raise money for Labrada's mission to get her sons a safer, more practical van.
It will be held September 24th -25th from 10 AM - 6 PM at the Pheasant Ridge Apartments in Bellevue. They will also be having a raffle. For more information on the event, call: 402-403-7847 or 402-999-5016.
The family has also started a GoFundMe page.