It is arguably more difficult for them than most other families because 21-year-old Gabriel, the oldest son in his family, has Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. Because of his condition, he is confined to a wheelchair.
Gabriel, who has a younger brother in Grade 9, is a student at Carbonear Collegiate and this will be his final year.
The cheerful and sweet young man would like to stay in school, but he will be too old to attend next fall. He now hopes to experience other things in life outside of high school.
He is not looking forward to leaving school, but has ambitions to keep moving forward, staying positive and maintaining friendships.
“He dearly loves school, and it is very heartbreaking that this will be his final year,” his aunt Michelle King told The Compass. “The school bus is currently his only source of wheelchair accessible transportation.”
Living in Adam’s Cove, which is about a 25-minute drive north of Carbonear, he is limited to what types of recreational and social activities he can participate in. If he wants to take part in something, he has to make that drive.
Gabriel’s teacher, Danielle Doyle, said that is difficult for him and his family because their vehicle is not wheelchair accessible.
His parents have to physically lift him in and out of his wheelchair to travel anywhere, she said.
“Gabriel gets out of his wheelchair for 20 minutes a day,” Danielle explained. “Taking him out of his chair takes two people. We have a lift, but it’s not suitable for Gabriel and his physical condition.”
Danielle confirms, whether it’s his mom or dad, they often have to lift him in and out of the vehicle on their own.
“He thoroughly loves being on the go,” she continued. “He likes to get out and about, isn’t that right Gabriel?”
Looking directly at her, his face lit up and he responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes.”
He confirmed he loves going to the mall, the grocery store and pretty much anywhere if he gets the opportunity.
Gabriel is a very positive person, always with a smile on his face. He doesn’t allow his wheelchair to interfere with doing the same activities that other students at the school do.
Gabriel is a recipient of the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for his volunteer, extra-curricular and physical activities.
Last year he participated in gym class, he takes theatre arts and music and delivers papers to classrooms around the school. Those are some of the things he will miss when he leaves school.
Gabriel’s cousin Allison King has entered him in a contest for a van retrofitted for people with mobility issues, which is taking place to coincide with National Mobility Awareness Month (May).
By voting online, the public will get to determine who will win one of four vans. As of May 22, Gabriel had over 4,000 votes.
But the contest isn’t just about the van for Gabriel, his family or his school. It’s about the importance of raising awareness for mobility issues.
According to Allison, a van like that costs on average $60,000. That’s a hefty price tag for many, but it would definitely help his independence, Danielle said.
“We’ve been promoting it here at school,” she explained. “Students are encouraged to vote during homeroom, and during a social justice class taught by Ed Jarvis. It would make things much easier for him and his family.”
Michelle King noted that Gabriel is the type of guy that would give anything he had to help others, which is something he learned from his mom Susan. Michelle noted that when he asks his mother if he is going to win the contest, she ensures he remains humble.
“She tells him if he doesn’t win, then someone else who needs it will,” Michelle said.
Daniel Trickett, a 13-year-old from Carbonear, is also in the running for the contest. He has Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Michelle, Allison, Danielle and Susan, along with dozens of others from the Conception Bay North area, have been sharing the contest on social media with hopes Gabriel and others will be able to continue living a lifestyle of independence without limitations.
To vote for Gabriel or Daniel, visit www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com and search under Newfoundland and Labrador.