Wheelchair Accessible Vans, Handicap Accessible Vans, Mobility Impairment

  • North Carolina Handicapped Sportsmen "Back In the Woods" Hunt near Bear Creek, NC




    "Back In the Woods" Hunter & Guides

    Back In the Woods 2011

    The following is the narrated audio in the above video:

    So now that the holidays are over, I finally have time to share my pictures and remember November’s “Back In the Woods ” hunt in Bear Creek, North Carolina.  Twenty wheelchair hunters were offered two days of hunting with all food and accommodations provided free of charge over the weekend of November 18th and 19th.  It was a huge endeavor spearheaded by 1995 Professional Bull Rider, Jerome Davis, paralyzed since 1998, and made possible with monetary contributions from numerous corporate sponsors and individuals alike; and just as importantly, with the help of the community of Bear Creek.

    There certainly are some big hearts in Bear Creek.  What can you say about all those landowners who opened up their properties and set up blinds and cultivated just the right spot to allow the greatest opportunity for each disabled hunter to harvest a deer?  Even though deer season had been opened for well over a week, some of them had waited and not hunted themselves: leaving that pristine territory for those to come. A lot of credit needs to also be given to Tommy Estridge for helping to get the whole thing organized.  He’s been friends with Jerome since before 1998 when Jerome was thrown from a bull, paralyzed, and instantaneously found himself one among millions of disabled Americans dependent upon a wheelchair for their mobility.  Tommy accompanied Jerome on another hunt organized for the disabled in Alabama and both men came back with ideas about providing such an event, back home in Bear Creek.  Through their partnership with the North Carolina Handicapped Sportsman (NCHS), those thoughts became reality.

    Tyson’s Creek Baptist Church Recreation Center provided the perfect venue for all of us to gather. With so many hunters, Van Products supplied two vans and one of our lead technicians, Stacy Scott came along to help me get folks into the woods.  Having a technician around proved useful since word spread and we were immediately asked questions in regard to several transportation issues that a few of the hunters were having with their existing vans.  Stacy loves to hunt and really enjoyed helping out even if it did mean getting up at 4:30 on Saturday morning.  We took hunters into the woods by truck, by van and by 4-wheeler -often with a scooter or chair piled on the back.  The mass exodus from camp was filled with anticipation.  Blinds high and blinds low were ready and waiting.

    As with every hunt, there is always a special feeling of excitement you sense whenever there are “young” hunters around.  This event introduced us to Ethan Freeman, Danny Glenn and Noah Ward.  Noah attended with his dad, Mark and his mom, Janet.  (Sometimes I’m not good with remembering names but those were amazingly easy!)  I met Danny Glenn and his family at an event last year hosted by Braggtown Baptist Church in Durham.  Van Products has provided transportation and door prizes for Braggtown’s Luke 14 Banquet for the past two years.  It was great seeing Danny enjoying a father-son outing with his dad, Walter.  Both Noah and Danny had successfully harvested deer by lunch on Saturday and although Ethan had not, his guides were set to take him back out Saturday evening.  After another disappointing hunt, they made arrangements for him to come back two weekends later and he was finally able to get both a doe and a button buck!  Thank you to all those who did whatever it took, for ever how long it took, to make that happen.

    Charles McLeod and his wife, Martha were hunting again which was particularly remarkable in light of the fact that his foot was still bandaged from having to be partially amputated just a couple of weeks before!  It was great to see them and to hear of their upcoming plans to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on a four-month cruise around the world!  Mr. McLeod’s chair sure has never slowed them down and he can always be counted on to bring down a deer.  Roger Kidd is also a familiar face to Van Products as is Joe Kirkpatrick.  They also were successful hunters and seemed to really enjoy the event.

    The greatest success story has to be that of Dale Wolf.  Dale was involved in an automobile accident some 17 years ago.  I believe he told me he was 19 at the time and had only been hunting once before he was paralyzed, and not at all since.  He didn’t even own a gun.  I’m not sure who loaned it to him but it must have been a good one because his aim was dead on and he brought down both the largest buck- 7pts, 162lbs- and the largest doe with that 243 rifle.    Befittingly the prize for both was a brand new rifle.  So now, he owns a gun.  Since Dale won a rifle for the big buck, the prize for the biggest doe was awarded to the runner up in that category, Alan Bracket.  I overheard someone ask Dale if he planned to have that beautiful buck mounted.  When Dale said no because it was just too expensive, that problem was also remedied by the big hearts and generous pockets of Bear Creek.  I guess you could say Dale had a pretty perfect weekend

    There were others that harvested two deer also.  One was Jim Goodwin of China Grove.  He was the first one back on Saturday morning and his guide, Ennis Loflin, said Jim was deadly with this 270 Remington.  From about 150 yards he took the buck down and while waiting to get that one loaded, caught sight of the doe and got her as well.

    Even though I’ve only mentioned a few of the hunters that went “Back in the Woods”, I saved my favorite for last.  Maybe it’s because she was the only female disabled hunter there; or maybe it’s because she’s a veteran who served her country well and who learned all about guns while in service.  Like Dale, she didn’t own a gun but in the military you don’t own the guns they give you there either.  Or maybe it’s because I have to admire a person who broke through every barrier just by showing up -whether it be color, gender or size!  Twila Adams is an attractive petite woman that you can’t help but like.  She and her guide, Tracy Stamey kept me smiling. Tracy hunts regularly and wore her pink accented camouflage gloves and gun bag with a style all her own.  Keenan and Deanna Jones set the ladies up on the backside of their property that Deanna often uses herself. Keenan’s another one of those men that made the mistake of letting his wife come along hunting.  Now she loves to hunt as much as he does!  They were like proud parents when both Twila and Tracy each got a deer.  Twila’s doe and Tracy’s button buck were both small but the excitement of Twila’s first time deer hunting and first conquest was huge, and her smile was even bigger!

    All in all it was a great weekend.  Great hunting, great food (thanks Bear Creek ladies), great music…Legends and Outlaws came all the way from Virginia to entertain us, great fellowship and great fun.  Even Keenan and Deanna’s dog had a great time, and we’re hoping he lets us “back in the woods again” next year.

  • 2012 National Veterans' Wheelchair Games Come to Richmond, VA

    The National Veterans' Wheelchair Games were first held in 1981 in Richmond, Virginia.  Since then the games have grown from seven events and 74 athletes, to 600 athletes and 17 events.  Last year's games in Pittsburgh, PA were a big success with many athletes coming from well beyond the east coast.

    After a successful inaugural event back in 1981, the Virginia Mid Atlantic Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Richmond VA Medical Center will host the games at its original site June 25 - 30, 2012. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games will be held in downtown Richmond at the Richmond Convention Center and at various other venues throughout the city.

    Athletes are all military veterans, and in the 2011 games, they ranged from newly injured Vets from recent conflicts to a 90 year-old veteran of World War II.  Vets quickly develop a sense of camaraderie which continues outside the competitive arena long after the games are over.   Be sure to make plans to attend the games in Richmond...the events are free to the public, and like in all other sports, the athletes love to play to a big crowd!

    Van Products friend, Johnny Holland had a great showing in the 2011 Games in Pittsburgh and he plans to compete in the Richmond Games as well.

    Volunteers are always a very important part of the success of events like this, and if you would like to help out as a volunteer during the National Veterans' Wheelchair Games, here is the registration form, and here is the application form.

    If you are a wheelchair athlete and would like to participate, you can visit the athlete information page to learn more.  All of the rules for eligibility are explained there.

    All registrations are due April 15th, 2012, so don't wait too long...see you there!


  • Choosing the Right Wheelchair Accessible Van

    When it comes to purchasing a wheelchair van, price is important, but  there are other points to consider as well.  We always stress how important it is to visit your local dealership to actually test-drive that vehicle...examine every feature, make sure you are able to easily move in and out  of the vehicle.  We encourage testing competitor's vans so you can see first hand the superior quality of a BraunAbility Entervan.

    When you visit your local dealership, ask about service and support AFTER the sale.  Take a look at their facility.  Meet the people who’ll be working for you.  THEN, decide.

    Have a look at the video below, and schedule an appointment to test ride a BraunAbility wheelchair van at Van Products!

    Choosing the Right Wheelchair Van

    Entervan picture

    Choosing the right accessible van will make a huge difference in your overall quality of life.

  • North Carolina Handicapped Sportsmen - Pender Possible Hunt

    Pender County Possible Hunt, held November 2011 (click on any image for a larger version)

    Just back from the second annual Pender Possible Hunt  hosted by the men of Pender Outdoor Ministries and sponsored by Van Products and Karl Reichardt with Wildlife Preservation Specialists. (If you need a great taxidermist, Karl's the man to call.)

    Once again the hunters were all lodged at Camp Kirkwood.  The beautiful fall foliage and lakeside lodges were welcomed sights and every one was so appreciative of the wonderful meals provided by Pender Outdoor Ministries and the staff of Camp Kirkwood.

    Another cabin at the camp

    Camp Kirkwood cabin








    We had a great hunt even though it rained a lot during the evening on Thursday and on Friday.  The big buck was taken by Ricky Morrow  seen here being congratulated by Karl as he awarded a free mount as the prize for getting the trophy deer.

    The biggest buck was taken by Rick Morrow

    Rick Morrow receives his trophy for the biggest Buck from Karl Reichardt








    Janet Harmon of Van Products awards a CVA 50 cal Muzzle Loader for the biggest doe to Gene Hildebran 








    Even though these guys took top honors, the real prizes were in the smiles I saw throughout the 3 day hunt.  Who could be prouder than Sean Houston?  The father of three boys, Hunter, Cole and Luke, ages 15,13 and 8 respectively.

    Cole has been fighting cancer and has had to have numerous brain surgeries over the past few months.  I'm told that after each one, the first question from him was always "Do I still get to go hunting?"  And his anticipation was rewarded when he shot his first deer using a special rig provided by NC Handicapped Sportsmen (NCHS) that allowed Cole to control everything by using a joy stick apparatus.  Not far away but in a separate stand, his Dad and brothers watched the joyous shot but not losing sight of everyone's ultimate goal, his Dad and Hunter reacted quick enough for Hunter to get a doe within seconds after Cole took the buck.  It was Hunter's first deer also. The next day we all agreed that Hunter was appropriately named when he shot another doe!

    Hunter Houston with his first deer

    Sean Houston and his sons Hunter, Cole and Luke






    Another one doing alot of smiling was Debra McKenna.  I first met Debra's husband Ray, back in March when they attended the Dixie Deer Classic and stopped by to see the GoShichi wheelchair accessible truck that Van Products had just acquired.  That outing was also when Debra first met Tony Robinson. Tony is a retired game warden and currently the Vice President of the NCHS.  He asked Debra was she a hunter?  When she said no, Tony set out to give her husband a new hunting partner.  Ray may never be able to hunt alone again! Debra's hooked and got a nice spike to brag about with her very first shot.

    Debra using her hunting rig

    Ray and Debra Mckenna









    And then there's Lee Hogan.  Lee and his neighbor and hunting partner, Bob Pershelli came all the way from the Charlotte area to hunt and I was fortunate to be able to use one of our vans to help get them in and out of the woods.  And boy did we go into the woods!  The first evening was unproductive and quite disheartening for Lee.  By the time we got back to camp he was so tired and hurting so much that all he wanted to do was take his meds and crawl into bed.  Lee's journey includes losing his home and belongings when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans.  His dependency on a leg braces and a wheel chair date back to an injury while working as a roofer.  Top that off with an aneurysm that is truly a ticking time bomb and a recent diagnosis of cancer and you can get a sense of the courage that it takes for him just to face each day.  Lee hadn't been in the woods hunting in a very long time.  He had no way.  He had no gun.  But then he found out about the NC Handicapped Sportsmen and started planning to do something he thought he'd never do again.  With Bob's help and a borrowed gun from Tony Robinson, I took Lee back into the woods.  Way back into the woods.  We actually drove 7.2 miles down a dirt road/path that runs along side the Cape Fear River.

    The Chrysler Entervan at the end of the trail

    The long drive along the Cape Fear for Lee Hogan








    The land owner was a little concerned about the Van Product's Chrysler Entervan making it through some of the mud and muck and I don't think I've ever gotten a van that dirty, but we made it and both Lee and Bob were rewarded with two deer a piece over the course of the weekend.  Even though it felt like it took an eternity to get to the sight where the owner had both a tree stand for Bob and a ground blind positioned just for Lee, it was truly a deer haven and all along the trek I could since Lee's anticipation.

    We could just tell it was going to be a good outing, and in less than 45 minutes, Lee took a four point buck and Bob using black powder took a doe just a little while later.  I even shot one, course it was with my camera, but I felt lucky just to get the shot.

    Lee and his 4 point buck

    Bob and the doe he took using black powder









    I did my shooting with a camera.

    The experience was the best dose of medicine Lee Hogan could have ever been given.  His testimony to us all at the closing meeting didn't leave many dry eyes.  Bob's having bypass surgery in just a couple of weeks and he certainly brings a whole new level to the meaning of "good neighbor." It is such a rewarding experience to represent Van Products as we support the endeavors of the North Carolina Handicap Sportsmen association.

    Every time I'm involved with these hunts and see all the volunteers as they help with weighing  and skinning  and all the effort that these landowners put forth to insure that each disabled hunter will have an ideal opportunity for success, I know that I am truly blessed to be able to witness the very best of humanity.

    Preparing to skin










    Time for quiet camaraderie after the hunt

    Sean Horsely (right) with Gene Hildebran and Mike West








    It takes a lot of time and effort to make an event like this successful and the  land owners and volunteers and folks like Sean Horsely, a wounded warrior and the Hunt Master for this hunt, can't be thanked enough for all that they do.

    There are so many that I have left unnamed and many that I didn't even have the opportunity to meet.  The Third Annual Pender Possible Hunt is already in the works and I look forward to having another opportunity to meet you then.  To everyone involved and until next time, thank you and Good Hunting.

    Janet Harmon


  • Wheelchair Van Conversion Safety - Sliding Door Dependability

    There is probably nothing more important to a person with limited mobility than dependable operation of the sliding door and ramp on their vehicle.  Obviously, this would be one of the worst places to cut corners during the conversion process.  But, believe it or not, there are accessible van conversion companies that do take the quick and easy way out in this very important step.

    In this video we discuss the importance of safe and reliable operation of  the sliding door in your wheelchair accessible van.  At Van Products, we can assure you that your van conversion has only the highest level of engineering and manufacturing quality built in.  Rather than figuring out  the cheapest and easiest way to make the sliding doors open, Braunability doors are engineered to be every bit as reliable as the original equipment doors.

    In the video, you will see first hand how other conversion companies cut corners (literally) in adapting the sliding doors on their vans.  Then we will show you how the Braunability doors are adapted so they not only open wider, but also more reliably.  You will easily be able to see the difference in quality between a Van Products accessible van and the competition.

    Click on the link below to view the video...

    Straight Talk About Sliding Doors

  • Parkinson's Can't Stop This Triathloner

    Van Products is a corporate sponsor of the Lake Royale Triathlon held near Bunn, NC, and that's how we learned of Jim Berndt's story.  When Jim recently entered the Lake Royale Triathlon, he was not really doing anything he had not successfully done before.  Jim was a triathlon veteran from years back.  In fact, he participated in triathlons for quite some time until 1988.  He decided that was the year to retire from racing to spend more time with his family and at work.

    Recently, Jim decided it was time to get back into the game…time for another triathlon.  No better place than Lake Royale in North Carolina.  He had family residing at the lake, a few familiar faces, and a great place to face the challenges of his first triathlon in 20 years.

    But Jim was, and still is facing a much bigger challenge than swimming, biking and running.  Jim was prepared to battle the hills of the Lake Royale Triathlon with a new challenge…Parkinson’s disease.

    Jim mustered the courage, trained hard and had a very successful outing at Lake Royale in 2008 and again in 2010.  Because of the disease, Jim has to train less than he might wish, but he takes advantage of the good days and dials it back on the tougher ones.  Despite all of that, he’s back for another triathlon this year,  participating  as part of a team!

    Jim’s Parkinson’s is at a mid-stage of progression and he takes medication to reduce the symptoms.  Oddly enough, swimming and biking actually reduce the symptoms of his Parkinson’s…he says that running is his greatest challenge, though.  When asked his opinion of the Lake Royale course, he replies, “God, that’s a hilly run course!  It’s a tough running course.”

    One part of the triathlon that many may take for granted is the transition area.  For Jim, it is an extra challenge.  The transition area requires fine motor skills, and Parkinson’s is not kind to fine motor skills, medication or not.  He gets through it, anyway.

    Jim’s sister told us, “He has never stopped being active or given up.  It was remarkable to watch him in the Lake Royale Triathlon.”

    Jim, we wish you good luck again at this Saturday's event!

  • Wheelchair Van Straight Talk - Brake Systems

    When choosing a wheelchair van conversion, safety is the most important factor to consider.  There is probably nothing more important than being able to stop you wheelchair van in an emergency situation.  Yet, some conversion companies actually cut corners during the conversion process, compromising safety.

    This video, the first in a series, shows three different van conversions.  It documents unsafe conversion techniques used to save time and money by two of the companies involved.

    Click here to view the six minute video...

    Wheelchair Van Straight Talk - Brake Systems


  • Huge Wheelchair Van Price Cut

    View additional information and pictures of this van here.

    Price Cut

    Call us for an At Home Demo! 800-662-7572

  • Goldsboro Native Wins Gold in National Veterans Wheelchair Games

    national-veterans-wheelchair-games-logoVan Products family member, Johnny Holland, recently competed in the 31st National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Pittsburgh, PA. The Goldsboro native and Army Veteran did North Carolina proud as he placed 1st in his class and division in two events; Nine Ball and Weightlifting.

    He placed 2nd in Bowling and also participated in Softball. Johnny bowled a 162, and his winning bench press was 265 pounds. These are exceptional performances especially considering the wide range of skills needed to participate in four very different events. No wonder he goes by the moniker "Quadzilla!"

    Heading Back to Richmond, VA

    Johnny won’t have to travel quite as far next year. The 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games will come back to Richmond, VA., the site of the inaugural Games in 1981. The 2012 Games are set for June 25th through the 30th.

    Charlie Hayden is the sports director for the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Chapter Paralyzed Veterans of America. He’s very familiar with the Games because he participated in the original Richmond Games in 1981. “We’re very excited to bring the Games back to Richmond—where it all began nearly 32 years ago,” said Charlie. “The Games have grown tremendously since then, and we look forward to seeing that growth continue as we host the 2012 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.”

    Athletes can compete at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games each year and are presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). They are open to all U.S. military veterans in wheelchairs for sports competition as a result of spinal cord injury, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments.

    Events in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games

    There are 17 events contested in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games:

    • Swimming
    • Table tennis
    • Weightlifting
    • Archery
    • Air guns
    • Basketball
    • Nine ball
    • Softball
    • Quad rugby
    • Bowling
    • Handcycling
    • Wheelchair slalom
    • Power soccer
    • Motorized wheelchair rally
    • Track and field
    • Trapshooting

    The athletes are grouped with others who have similar abilities, experience and age. You can learn more about the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games at www.pva.org/Games or www.wheelchairgames.va.gov.

    Johnny "Quadzilla" on Television

    On a final note, Johnny was one of the athletes featured in the promotion done by a local TV station in Pittsburgh. During the advertisement, "Quadzilla" caught the eye of a young viewer and he immediately wanted to meet Johnny. He headed out to the Games and was fortunate enough to find Johnny amongst all the other competitors. Johnny shared his time generously and as you can see in the picture, gave his new friend a good look at his medals. While visiting at Van Products recently, he grinned and said, "Yeah, I definitely have a new buddy!"

    Where might Quadzilla show up next?

    On September 17th, Johnny will throw out the first pitch at the inaugural Miracle League of Franklin County baseball game at Louisburg High School. Game time is 7pm and Van Products will be there, too!

  • Wheelchair Accessible Honda Odyssey

    Van Products is pleased to announce that we have added the completely redesigned 2011 Honda Odyssey to our wheelchair accessible van lineup.  The Honda fills out our list of manufacturers which includes Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Toyota Sienna.

    The redesign of the 2011 Honda Odyssey wheelchair van gives it bolder styling and makes it fun to drive! Even the 3.5L V6 engine is new and delivers great economy along with ample power.

    One improvement that is difficult to see, yet extremely important is structural strength.  The 2011 Odyssey is 35% stronger providing increased safety to all seating positions.  The Braun wheelchair conversion includes the new Step-and-Roll Seat design which makes the front seats even easier to remove and reinstall.  All Van Products handicap vans exceed all Federal Motor Vehicle Standards and of course the new Honda is no exception.

    Honda Odyssey

    The Braun wheelchair conversion features the same easy to use automatic factory door and folding ramp as all BraunAbility minivans.   All it takes is a single touch on the keyless remote, and the power door opens, the ramp folds down, and the van kneels (lowers down) to decrease the ramp angle and make entry or exit easier than ever.

    Both front seats of the Honda Odyssey wheelchair van can be removed (no tools needed) so that wheelchair passengers can either ride as a passenger up front, or can drive with hand controls which Van Products can add at the time of purchase.

    All hand controls are custom fit after a professional driver evaluation and Van Products will also install an E-Z Lock device that safely secures the wheelchair to the van floor.  This potentially makes wheelchair drivers completely independent, requiring no help to enter the van and drive away!

    As you can see in the photos, the 2011 Honda Odyssey Wheelchair Accessible van is just about the sharpest looking minivan on the road.  If you would like to see it firsthand, we invite you to visit us at Van Products, or call us for an in home demo.  Directions to Van Products are here.  We look forward to helping you gain a more independent lifestyle!

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