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Accessible van gives independence to Colby Audette

By Celina Ip

Colby Audette gives a big smile and a thumbs up as he shows off his family's new accessible van (featuring a rear-conversion ramp system) that they purchased this past December with support from funds raised through Colby's Crusade.

Colby Audette gives a big smile and a thumbs up as he shows off his family's new accessible van (featuring a rear-conversion ramp system) that they purchased this past December with support from funds raised through Colby's Crusade.


After years of fundraising and crusading, Colby Audette’s family is grateful for the gift of mobility by way of an accessible van.


Pembroke’s Colby Audette was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) in 2011 when he was only eight years of age.

DMD is the most common fatal genetic disorder to affect children around the world and affects mainly boys who cannot produce dystrophin – an essential protein the body needs to build up muscles. As a result, every muscle in the body deteriorates gradually.

In recent years, travelling had become more of a challenge for the family as 15-year-old Colby lost his mobility and can no longer bear any weight.

“Duchenne is a progressive disease so it’s been affecting Colby more and more over the years,” said Gloria, Colby’s mom. “Last year he lost his mobility so he’s no longer able to walk and since this year he hasn't been able to weight-bear at all.”

Over the past year, Gloria would have to lift her son in and out of the family’s SUV and the 80-pound wheelchair had to be folded and placed in the back as well. The task had become increasingly difficult for both of them as it was physically exhausting for Gloria and it further impeded on Colby’s independence.

“Colby is 15 now, so he is growing to be an adult and when other people see his mom lifting him in and out of a vehicle, it's embarrassing for him,” said Gloria.

To assist Colby and his family, community members joined forces in support of Colby’s Crusade and to raise funds for a handicapped-accessible van. With all of the funds raised from the 2016 and 2017 Colby’s Crusade along with $3,000 from Easter Seals, $1,000 from Muscular Dystrophy Canada and donations to Colby’s GoFundMe, the family’s wish was granted this past December.

On Dec. 6, Colby and his family received an early Christmas present as they traded in their SUV for a handicapped-accessible van.

“Now, when I go to the grocery store, I’m not pulling Colby behind me or pushing him and pulling the cart behind me. I'm also not having to lift him in and out of the vehicle but with the mechanical lift system, Colby can now use his power-chair,” said Gloria. “It’s so much easier for both of us and there’s a new sense of independence that we’ve both gotten from the van. He’s no longer embarrassed because I don’t need to lift him in and out anymore and he can wheel himself in on his own.”

She expressed that the van has provided her family with tremendous relief and that it was only made possible through Colby’s Crusade and the community’s ongoing generosity.

“We’re still making month-to-month payments on the van itself, but thanks to the community's generosity we were able to cover the cost of rear-conversion ramp system for the van,” said Gloria. “The ramp was about $25,000 and 95 per cent of that was covered by fundraising through Colby's Crusade. We wouldn’t have been able to acquire the van without the community’s support, because between purchasing the van and getting the rear-conversion it was a huge undertaking.”

Since the inaugural Colby’s Crusade in 2013, Gloria expressed how the fundraiser has garnered outstanding generosity and support from the community in the amount of more than $50,000. Those funds have gone towards the purchase of a wheelchair, additions to make the Audette family’s home more accessible for Colby and most recently the accessible van.

On May 19, the Audette family is inviting the community to take part in the sixth annual Colby’s Crusade.

“This coming May I'll be doing another Colby's Crusade to help us cover further payments to the van and to put a smile on Colby’s face. He loves doing Colby’s Crusade every year because it’s a chance for him to have fun with his friends and there’s no better feeling than seeing Colby laughing and smiling,” said Gloria.

The event will once again serve to bring the community together in support of Colby while raising awareness about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and raising necessary funds to pay for Colby’s ongoing medication and a ceiling lift.

“Our family would like to thank everybody who has been a part of Colby’s Crusade in any way, shape or form - whether you've been there to support us on our May-long weekend, whether you've been to our benefit dance, whether you've made a private donation through GoFundMe or on your own or contributing to our TD trust account. We are forever grateful and hopefully we will see you out in May, 2018 for our 6th annual fundraiser to raise awareness about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy,” said Gloria.

More details about the event are to follow in the coming months. 

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