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Local youth and family vie for accessible van in online contest

Seeking readers’ votes

  • Theresa Charlton and her father Stephen at their home in Heath on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Theresa Charlton and her father Stephen at their home in Heath on Monday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell

  • Theresa Charlton plays at her home in Heath on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Theresa Charlton plays at her home in Heath on Monday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell

  • Theresa Charlton and her father Stephen at their home in Heath on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Theresa Charlton and her father Stephen at their home in Heath on Monday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell

  • Theresa Charlton and her father Stephen at their home in Heath on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Theresa Charlton plays at her home in Heath on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Theresa Charlton and her father Stephen at their home in Heath on Monday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

Heath — The simple “click” of a computer mouse each day could make all the difference in a local youth and her family getting the ride they need.

Theresa Charlton, a 15-year-old who has lived her entire life immobile because she was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, a neurological disease that causes seizures, a port-wine stain on her face and skull, muscle weakness, mental retardation, and glaucoma, is currently in competition for an accessible van through the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.

Her father, Stephen Charlton, said if his family wins the online voting competition, he will use the van to transport his daughter to and from doctor appointments and other necessary outings.

In 2008, the local Knights of Columbus literally gave the same family a lift by donating and installing a $6,000 Sure Hands Lift and Care system to help with Theresa’s transport back and forth from her bed.

The young girl has never spoken a word, never taken a step, never played with her older brother or two younger sisters the way most children do, and never been able to utter the words, “I love you,” to her father as he tucks her in at night.

“I love my kids and I’ll do anything for them,” said the single father of four, who is not only raising Theresa, but an older brother with autism and is disabled himself. “I would never have enough money to go out and buy an accessible van.”

The competition ends May 9.

How to vote

Charlton said all people have to do is go to the NMEDA website and follow directions to vote once a day through May 9. The website is: www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/theresa-charlton-charlemont-ma.

Charlton said he spends each day getting his children, including Theresa, up and ready for school. He said once they are all out of the house, he runs errands and does housework until they all return at about 2:45 p.m.

“I just continually try to keep Theresa comfortable,” he said.

She must be fed through a tube and she wears a diaper and is confined to a wheelchair or her bed.

“She’s a really happy kid, though,” said her father.

Charlton’s children are 18, 15, 13 and 12. He currently has custody of all four and has the help of a home health aide a few hours a day.

“I’m not complaining,” he said. “I’m just always looking for something that might make things a little easier.”

Also visit Theresa Charlton Massachusetts Local Hero on Facebook.

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