Raymond man's spirit strong, but wheelchair van falling apart
Bruce Gatchell of Raymond, right, with his sister, Lisa Duford, and her children, Lilly, 8, Violet, 5, and May, 3, at Wason Pond in Chester. They are joined by Josh Jones, who works for One Sky Community Services in Portsmouth and helps care for Gatchell, who has cerebral palsy. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)
The 33-year-old Raymond man has cerebral palsy and relies on his wheelchair van to get around.
He swims twice a week at Synergy Health and Fitness in Exeter and hangs out by the water at Wason Pond in Chester.
He volunteers weekly at Bethany Church in Greenland, participates in Special Olympics New Hampshire — he took first place in the 25-meter wheelchair race in the recent summer games — and even though he's confined to his wheelchair, Gatchell is able to sweep floors at Salon 27 in Raymond, where his sister and legal guardian, Lisa Duford, works.
With help from his sister and paid staff who care for him, Gatchell gets out of his house daily, but his future travels are uncertain.
His 1996 Dodge Ram 2500 wheelchair van that's had many repairs in recent years is rusting out and may not last much longer.
Josh Jones, a family supervised direct support professional with One Sky Community Services in Portsmouth who helps care for Gatchell during the day, said he's worried the van won't pass inspection in November because of the rust.
Jones has been helping Duford plan for a van replacement down the road, but the mother of three young girls said she just doesn't have the money to buy a new van for her brother.
They plan to begin raising money to help pay for a new van and have set up a fund at People's United Bank in Raymond.
Duford does everything she can for her brother, and while he receives federal funding administered through the state to cover the cost of his care, she said there's no money in the budget for a vehicle replacement.
“I have no one around who's going to help me buy one,” Duford said.
Their mother spent about $7,000 to buy her son the used wheelchair van just before she died of pancreatic cancer in 2006. She knew she didn't have long to live and wanted to make sure her son had the van he needed.
Gatchell's father died when he was 11.
“I'm the only family left. It makes it really hard. He's young to have had this happen in the first place. If he's sitting home he would be pretty depressed. We rely on that van,” Duford said.
Gatchell has been stuck at home for a month at a time when the van has been in the shop for repairs.
Of all of the activities he enjoys outside of his house, Gatchell said he likes swimming the most.
“I had a pool when I was little,” he said Tuesday while visiting Wason Pond with his sister, his nieces and Jones.
Gatchell lives with his sister, who watches over him when one of his three paid staffers aren't around.
“I take it day by day,” she said.
Jones has worked with Gatchell for 10 years and said he hopes they'll be able to raise the money to replace the van before it dies, but he realizes it will take time.
“He's really into helping him and is working hard to try to see him get this van,” Duford said.
Anyone interested in donating to Gatchell's wheelchair van fund can make checks payable to “Wheelchair Van for Bruce” c/o People's United Bank, 55 Main St., Raymond, N.H., 03077.
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Jason Schreiber may be reached at email@example.com.
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