Kim Brown lifts her daughter, Emily, out of her wheelchair to put her into their SUV. (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
Just the push of a button.
That’s all it would take to change the lives of Emily and Kim Brown of Jonesborough. Currently, Kim has to plan well ahead for everything from trips as simple as a ride to the store to a day-long doctor’s appointment in Knoxville for her daughter, Emily, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
To get Emily and her wheelchair loaded into the family’s Chevrolet Tahoe, it takes all the consideration and strength the five-foot-two-inch woman can muster to get her daughter in and out of the house on special ramps and into the vehicle, which is not equipped for such use.
The push of a button is all it would take for Kim Brown, who dreams of the day when a quick pop into the car with her daughter is possible after a quick automatic lift load-up. And it is possible, if Emily wins a contest that runs through May 9 put on by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association during Mobility Awareness Month, in which several winners will be given handicapped-accessible conversion vans to make their lives easier.
The contest is judged by how many votes each of the currently 640 contestants receive. After the top vote-getters are decided, a panel chooses which “hero,” as they’re called, wins one of the four vehicles, NMEDA spokeswoman Cheryl Parker said.
“Everyone is so worthy,” Parker said. “I wish we could give away vehicles to all the heroes.”
Some strategy tips Parker offers based on the results of last year’s contests, which earned 4 million hits to the website in the course of the two-month contest, includes email blasts, putting pressure on local politicians, and, of course, utilizing social media to spread the word.
Currently, Emily sits at about 21st place, well behind, but not out of range from the top vote-getter, who is up front by about 900 votes. Kim hopes through a big social media push, she can get Emily’s situation and story out there to earn more votes.
Many people think it’s a one-vote-and-done kind of contest, but Kim says people can vote every 24 hours, something she and Emily’s closest supporters do like clockwork. Parker seconded this in saying the biggest thing she can share is reminding supporters to keep on voting, that each email address can vote every 24 hours.
These people know how much it would change the Browns’ lives.
What a victory would mean for Emily and her mom would be having options for Emily to enjoy the things she holds dear, including going and exploring the region by way of road, going out to eat at her favorite restaurants, and, simply cruising around the mall to people watch, something she and her mother love to do.
“This is my child,” Kim says with a smile. “I don’t know any other way. I just do it.”
She’s constantly doing everything she can to give Emily the best experience possible. Emily recently received a puppy for Christmas, a “Chorkie,” a Chihuahua and Yorkshire Terrier mix, named “Peyton,” and Kim says people think she’s crazy because she recently built a backyard fence so her daughter can play with her dog outside.
Peyton is the perfect lapdog for Emily, her mom says, always on her lap as she sits in her wheelchair.
Emily, who will graduate from David Crockett High School in May, has indicated to her mom that she’s not getting her hopes up.
“All the time, I say, ‘Emily, we’re going to get this van,’ and she’ll say, ‘no,’ ” Kim says.
At around 90 pounds and an inch taller than her mother, moving Emily around is no easy task for her mother. With the help of sister “Dee Dee” Ward, who’s been instrumental in helping with Emily and making her a factor in the contest, Kim is able to tackle some of the more difficult tasks.
The winners of the contest, Parker said, will be have the vehicle customized to their own needs, and they’ll go as far as letting winners pick their color. There will be two vans from Toyota, one from Dodge-Chrysler and another from MV-1.
To get to Emily’s contest page at mobilityawarenessmonth.com, go to http://bit.ly/1di7GC0.
For more information about Emily, check her “Team Emily Brown” page on Facebook.