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Fowler Teen gets gifted ADA-accessible van for 16th birthday

Thanks to a generous community, a Fowler teen's sixteenth birthday just got a little sweeter.

Posted: Sep 25, 2020 7:23 PM

WINAMAC, Ind. (WLFI) — Something that seemed out of reach has just become a reality for one Fowler teen. 15-year-old Breanne Butler was born with spina-bifida which affects her ability to walk.

Her sixteenth birthday wish was to get an ADA-accessible van. Now her wish has come true thanks to a community of people who have helped donate her a van. It started back in July when we published a story about Breanne painting rocks. She started selling them in hopes of raising enough money to buy herself a handicap-accessible van.

These vans can cost around $30,000, but that's not something she has to worry about any longer.

"An employee had forwarded us Breanne's story and we were so moved by it," said Megan Wegner, senior brand manager for Braunability based in Winamac.

The company is the number one manufacturer for wheelchairs and wheelchair accessible vans globally. That's why when they learned there was a local teen in need, they started brainstorming.

"We started thinking, what could we do? Could we purchase some rocks, have them painted with the Braunability logo, how could we support her," said Wegner.

Unfortunately, donating a van through the company just wasn't an option.

"We wish we could donate a vehicle to everyone who needs one and we just can't," said Wegner. "The need is so great and every story is just so moving and oftentimes devastating. So to learn that we had an angel in our backyard that was donating her own vehicle was just so heartwarming and re-affirming of our mission," said Wegner.

The angel she's referring to is Jody Joseph. She is a family nurse practitioner who happens to works for a company that provides health care for Braunability employees. She caught Breanne's story at a time her family was just looking to get rid of an ADA-accessible van. Joseph said the van belonged to her aunt, who no longer needed it after recently transitioning to a fulltime care facility.

"I saw this van just kind of sitting and I knew that it needed another purpose and I spoke to my family about it and my son, who is senior at Purdue, saw Breanne's story on WLFI and he sent a link for the story and I read it and I got goosebumps and I knew that this is where God wanted this van to go so I reached out to Jami who is Breanne's mother and I said I have a van for you," said Joseph.

While Breanne knew she was getting a van, she didn't know that Joseph decided to partner with Braunability to get the van fixed up free of charge to make it the perfect fit for her. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, her family surprised her by saying they were driving up to Winamac to go shopping at a local boutique, which something they do often.

"Thought it was going to be a regular school day, you know, I got out at 2:15 p.m. and thought I was just coming up here to go shopping," said Butler.

Breanne said the surprise car reveal and the way people have stepped up to help her wish come true is something she'll cherish forever.

"I never thought it would happen or it could happen," said Breanne. "I thought it would be a couple of years. Thank you to everybody that saw this and made it happen."

Breanne will be 16 on Oct. 7. She's still raising money to help with car insurance and other driving expenses. You can find a link to her "Breanne Rocks" Facebook page here.

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