Keep­ing mo­bile

Adam’s Cove stu­dent aims to ease travel bur­den

The Compass - - NEWS - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

Trav­el­ling can be dif­fi­cult for the Baggs fam­ily of Adam’s Cove, Con­cep­tion Bay. It is ar­guably more dif­fi­cult for them than most other fam­i­lies be­cause 21-year-old Gabriel, the old­est son in his fam­ily, has Spina Bi­fida and Hy­dro­cephalus. Be­cause of his con­di­tion, he is con­fined to a wheel­chair.

Gabriel, who has a younger brother in Grade 9, is a stu­dent at Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate and this will be his fi­nal year.

The cheer­ful and sweet young man would like to stay in school, but he will be too old to at­tend next fall. He now hopes to ex­pe­ri­ence other things in life out­side of high school.

He is not look­ing for­ward to leav­ing school, but has am­bi­tions to keep mov­ing for­ward, stay­ing pos­i­tive and main­tain­ing friend­ships.

“He dearly loves school, and it is very heart­break­ing that this will be his fi­nal year,” his aunt Michelle King told The Compass. “The school bus is cur­rently his only source of wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble trans­porta­tion.”

Living in Adam’s Cove, which is about a 25-minute drive north of Car­bon­ear, he is limited to what types of recre­ational and so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties he can par­tic­i­pate in. If he wants to take part in some­thing, he has to make that drive.

Gabriel’s teacher, Danielle Doyle, said that is dif­fi­cult for him and his fam­ily be­cause their ve­hi­cle is not wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble.

His par­ents have to phys­i­cally lift him in and out of his wheel­chair to travel any­where, she said.

“Gabriel gets out of his wheel­chair for 20 min­utes a day,” Danielle ex­plained. “Tak­ing him out of his chair takes two peo­ple. We have a lift, but it’s not suit­able for Gabriel and his phys­i­cal con­di­tion.”

Danielle con­firms, whether it’s his mom or dad, they of­ten have to lift him in and out of the ve­hi­cle on their own.

“He thor­oughly loves be­ing on the go,” she con­tin­ued. “He likes to get out and about, isn’t that right Gabriel?”

Look­ing di­rectly at her, his face lit up and he re­sponded with an en­thu­si­as­tic, “Yes.”

He con­firmed he loves go­ing to the mall, the gro­cery store and pretty much any­where if he gets the op­por­tu­nity.

Gabriel is a very pos­i­tive per­son, al­ways with a smile on his face. He doesn’t al­low his wheel­chair to in­ter­fere with do­ing the same ac­tiv­i­ties that other stu­dents at the school do.

Gabriel is a re­cip­i­ent of the Bronze Duke of Ed­in­burgh’s Award for his vol­un­teer, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

Last year he par­tic­i­pated in gym class, he takes theatre arts and mu­sic and de­liv­ers pa­pers to class­rooms around the school. Those are some of the things he will miss when he leaves school.

Sup­port

Gabriel’s cousin Al­li­son King has en­tered him in a con­test for a van retro­fit­ted for peo­ple with mo­bil­ity is­sues, which is tak­ing place to co­in­cide with Na­tional Mo­bil­ity Aware­ness Month (May).

By vot­ing on­line, the public will get to de­ter­mine who will win one of four vans. As of May 22, Gabriel had over 4,000 votes.

But the con­test isn’t just about the van for Gabriel, his fam­ily or his school. It’s about the im­por­tance of rais­ing aware­ness for mo­bil­ity is­sues.

Ac­cord­ing to Al­li­son, a van like that costs on av­er­age $60,000. That’s a hefty price tag for many, but it would def­i­nitely help his in­de­pen­dence, Danielle said.

“We’ve been pro­mot­ing it here at school,” she ex­plained. “Stu­dents are en­cour­aged to vote dur­ing home­room, and dur­ing a so­cial jus­tice class taught by Ed Jarvis. It would make things much eas­ier for him and his fam­ily.”

Michelle King noted that Gabriel is the type of guy that would give any­thing he had to help oth­ers, which is some­thing he learned from his mom Su­san. Michelle noted that when he asks his mother if he is go­ing to win the con­test, she en­sures he re­mains hum­ble.

“She tells him if he doesn’t win, then some­one else who needs it will,” Michelle said.

Daniel Trick­ett, a 13-year-old from Car­bon­ear, is also in the run­ning for the con­test. He has Duchenne mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy.

Michelle, Al­li­son, Danielle and Su­san, along with dozens of oth­ers from the Con­cep­tion Bay North area, have been shar­ing the con­test on so­cial me­dia with hopes Gabriel and oth­ers will be able to con­tinue living a life­style of in­de­pen­dence with­out lim­i­ta­tions.

To vote for Gabriel or Daniel, visit www.mo­bil­ityaware­ness­month.com and search un­der New­found­land and Labrador.

“It would make things much eas­ier for him and his fam­ily.”

Danielle Doyle, Gabriel’s teacher

PHOTO BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COMPASS

Gabriel Baggs holds a sign next to the school bul­letin board en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents at Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate to vote to help his fam­ily win a wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble van.

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