(ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce ) ABC Central West
By Melanie Pearce
July 10, 2017 09:55:14
James Baxter-O’Shea receives his surprise birthday present of a van that will allow him to go places.
(ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce)
Equally overwhelmed was his mother, Beth O’Shea, who was also completely in the dark about the big birthday present.”I had no idea I knew that many people who were that good at keeping secrets — amazing secrets!” Ms O’Shea laughed.She could not believe the Oberon community had raised so much money in such a short time and helping her as a single mother, when she needed help to provide for her son.”I thought we’d have to wait until the end of the year and I was considering the applications I’d need to put into the NDIS [National Disability Insurance Scheme] to get the modifications, but now we don’t even have to do that,” she explained.From pakoras to philanthropyThe fundraising effort to raise the more than $80,000 needed to buy and fit out a van officially started only about four months ago.It began after Mr Baxter-O’Shea’s carer, Sashi Dean, raised concerns about the condition of his vehicle and she and his mother, grandmother and members of Oberon Rotary formed a fundraising committee.The Oberon district of about 5,000 people supported the cause through a raffle, a concert, coin collection jars in local stores and a crowdfunding campaign kicked off through a social media video made by students at the local high school.There were also locally made goods including countless batches of Indian appetisers called pakoras made by Ms Dean which were sold at market stalls, as well as backing by the Rotary Benevolent Fund.She said seeing how much the community cared for him through the fundraising had had a direct impact on Mr Baxter-O’Shea.”I’ve been working with him for four years and since this started I’ve seen a very happy man,” Ms Dean said.When there was a shortfall in the amount raised, local couple Ross and Julie Gibson made a significant donation to ensure the vehicle’s purchase and fit-out could be fast-tracked.Mr Gibson said while they only met Mr Baxter-O’Shea and his mother at the birthday party, he and his wife felt Oberon had been good to them and their timber business and they were in a position to give back.”I think we’ve all got to put ourselves in that position, that if we had a child who needed something they couldn’t afford, that someone would come in and we’d all help together,” Mr Gibson said, adding that he thought these days there was not enough philanthropy or helping others out. Photo:
The new van with (L-R) Beth O’Shea, Brenda Lyon from Oberon Rotary, Michael McNamara from the car dealership and James Baxter O’Shea. (ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce)
Modifications and moving forwardWhile Mr Baxter-O’Shea was ceremonially handed the keys to the van at his birthday party yesterday, he then had to give them back because the vehicle still needed to undergo a $20,000 wheelchair-accessible modification.Most of the seats will be removed (leaving some for his friends to travel with him at times) and a hydraulic lift installed.Shire Mayor Kathy Sajowitz said she was not surprised by the speed at which the fundraising target was reached because “the generosity of Oberon knows no bounds”.She said she believed Mr Baxter-O’Shea’s story had opened a few local eyes about the accessibility needs of others, but Oberon had not had a lot of experience with disabilities and was just putting its disability action plan in place.”We have got a way to go I suppose; a lot of small towns are in that position but we are certainly welcoming to anyone with a disability in our community,” she said. Photo:
Friends, family and the community present Mr Baxter-O’Shea with his surprise birthday gift. James Baxter-O’Shea has received the surprise of his life for his 22nd birthday — a wheelchair-accessible vehicle that will allow him to escape the life he is currently confined to.Family, friends and the community rallied to raise more than $80,000 in just four months.Until now, Mr Baxter-O’Shea has not really been able to go anywhere because his current vehicle has nearly 700,000 kilometres on the odometer, is full of rust and unsafe.But with a brand new, gleaming vehicle now his own, Mr Baxter-O’Shea said he could now go anywhere and was planning a few big trips away.”Probably to Queensland; it’s freezing here at the moment,” he laughed.A big surprise
Facebook video of James receiving the van
Mr Baxter-O’Shea, who has muscular dystrophy, was enjoying his birthday party at the Oberon RSL Club yesterday, playing games with friends, when he was told he needed to go outside.He was not sure why, particularly because his condition means he can suffer if he is in the cold too long and it was a particularly biting Oberon winter’s day.His expression was one of shock and elation when he turned a corner into the club car park and heard a crowd of about 40 people singing him Happy Birthday and standing in front of a brand new 12-seat van.”I just got the bus I’d been wishing for for years now.” Mr Baxter-O’Shea said.
Country town helps man with muscular dystrophy access all areas