Van needed for Bristol teen's independence

Posted

Brianna Silveira is just like any other teenager.

She loves makeup, talking about boys and fashion.

She even loves to hang out with her friends, but her wheelchair confinement has made that challenging.

Brianna and her twin sister, Brittany, were born premature at 27 weeks, each weighing less than 2 pounds. Both spent months in the hospital afterward.

Brianna, however, suffered a significant brain bleed. Her trauma affected her development and she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 6 months old.

"It can be very challenging raising a child with severe physical limitations," said her mom, Linda Vollaro.

When Brianna was 3, she was fitted for her first wheelchair. Though she had her own set of "wheels," she was still dependent on others to push her around. She even had a teacher's assistant through most of her academic career.

"She doesn't have good coordination or strength in her hands," Linda said, "so she can't push herself around."

Now, at 14 and a freshman at Mt. Hope High School, Brianna is largely independent. She has a powered-wheelchair, making her less dependent on others and more self-sufficient.

But, like most teens, Brianna is eager to get out and about with her friends. Unfortunately, that would require the use of a specially-equipped van that would transport Brianna in her powered-wheelchair.

"Before, we would be doing a lot of lifting," said her dad, Paul Vollaro. "Putting her in the car, and then folding up the wheelchair to put in the back."

Once the Vollaros got to their destination, Brianna would then depend on her family or friends to wheel her about.

"Often times, like when we went to Salem, she didn't even want to bother going," said Linda. "It was too much for her."

Brianna is limited in where she can go and what she can do because the weight of her powered-wheelchair is so great, no one can lift it. She's able to take it to school, because a special school bus transports her.

"I don't like imposing on my friends," she said. "I don't like being a burden to them. I'd rather get myself around."

The cost to purchase a specially-equipped van can be expensive, running as high as $60,000 — a cost too great for the family to bear. The Vollaros started a Facebook page in an effort to raise funds to reduce their overall financing amount. Their campaign, Brianna's Wheels, went live about a week ago and the family has raised a little more than $1,500.

"We're not in a rush," said Linda. "This will be slow-moving and we'll hopefully be able to get a van for her by next year."

Brianna is excited to hopefully attend her first football game next fall.

"I haven't been able to go because I can't get around," she said.

Her mom did, however, make sure that Brianna attended her first homecoming dance.

"We rented a ramp and thought we could just get by with one of those," she said. "But it was way too complicated. It was great for that night, because she got to go, but it wouldn't work for a long-term solution."

For more about Brianna's Wheels and how you can help, go to www.facebook.com/briannaswheels, or e-mail the Vollaros as briannaswheels@gmail.com.

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