Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Donations sought for beach wheelchair

Published in the Current and the American Journal

The story of a dutiful son whose car got stuck in the sand on Willard Beach while he was trying to help his mother get into the water has spurred city councilors to ask for donations to help the city buy a beach wheelchair.

William Scully of Beatrice, Neb., whose mother lives in the area, wrote to Dana Anderson, director of parks and recreation, on June 25, to tell his unusual tale and propose a solution to the problem. On a Sunday morning in early June, Scully wrote, he took his mother to Willard Beach to go swimming.

His mother, 85, has arthritis that makes it hard to walk. “It takes her a long time to get to the water’s edge,” Scully wrote. “So in a moment of lunacy I decided to drive the old Volvo onto the beach close to the water.”

His mother safely out and swimming happily, Scully found the car was stuck up to its axles. A tow truck he called also got stuck, and a second tow truck arrived to help.

“With the help of about 20 people digging and a wide-tire F 150 Ford pickup” the car was freed, but Scully doesn’t want to have to do that again.

In the intervening weeks, he has tried to think of a solution, and rather than build an expensive boardwalk for regular wheelchair access, he found a web site,, selling a balloon-tire wheelchair made especially for beach use, able to stand up to salt water and sand.

They weigh about 40 pounds and will be used to get disabled people to and from the beach, rather than having one person use it all day, said Tim Gato, aquatics coordinator for the city.

Gato is looking at two models, which will cost between $2,000 and $2,500 delivered. Scully has donated $1,000. He hopes a chair can get here before summer’s end, but if not expects it will be here in plenty of time for next summer.

Councilor Linda Boudreau read Scully’s letter aloud at last week’s council meeting and asked the public for help raising the remainder of the money needed.

“We will essentially be providing handicap access to Willard Beach,” said City Manager Jeff Jordan.