By Jesse Wood
June 23, 2014. Jay Erwin of Deep Gap was the second-highest votegetter in the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association contest in May that was offering four custom wheelchair accessible vehicles to a select few that entered and shared their heart-wrenching stories.
Last fall, Erwin became paralyzed from the chest down after attempting to cut down a tree at his home. After properly notching a tree, it became lodged into another tree. While he tried to free the initial tree, a large branch struck Erwin on the shoulder, driving him to the ground. If it wasn’t for his son administering three rounds of CPR on his father, Erwin wouldn’t be alive today.
As for the voting, that proved to be futile because Erwin wasn’t chosen to win one of the four vehicles – even though he came in second place in the voting. When Erwin found out about the final seletions, he noted his “disbelief and sadness.”
But in typical Erwin fashion, he thought of others instead of dwelling on his on own hardships.
“We must remember that God is in control and He has a plan and the van was needed more by four other very worthy people. We must remember that they were praying too,” Erwin wrote in a Facebook post.
Click here to read about the tragedies in the lives of the other four individuals who were selected to be the beneficiaries of the contest.
Erwin received just shy of 80,000 votes from members of the community and runners across the United States. (Erwin was a devoted runner and was a co-founder of the Boone Running Club.) Erwin’s friend Kinney Baughman kept everyone motivated by posting Erwin’s daily placement in the voting and what he needed to secure a top-four finish.
Before the votes were tallied, Erwin mentioned that winning the custom vehicle would be “huge” for his family.
“It would give me independence. It would give my wife independence,” Erwin said. “I could go to and from work by myself and right now I am having to lift myself, using a board, from the wheelchair into the car. [With this vehicle] it would help me to roll in and out, roll in and get behind the wheel in my wheelchair, lock it and drive.”
A day after Erwin’s Facebook post explaining that he didn’t win the contest, Tom Van Gilder, another friend of Erwin’s, started a GoFundMe.com page to help raise money for a custom accessible vehicle and assist with medical bills.
So far, $25,000 has been raised – from 284 people in 22 days. The total goal is $79,541 – which is a dollar for every vote that Erwin received in the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association contest.