Repairs To Van Keep Quadriplegic On Road To Degree

Nurse's Letter Brings Help From Foundation

February 02, 1992|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,Contributing writer

Aberdeen resident and nurse Marion Jackson knew there was someone out there who could help her patient, Lance Sutton, a quadriplegic whose old van was about to go bust.

And when it did, he'd become isolated and cut off from attending the accounting classes he was hoping would land him a degree, a good job and a secure lifestyle.

The odometer on Sutton's van read 163,000. Clearly, the vehicle'sdays were numbered. And so were Sutton's days of independence if thevan went kaput. "I rely on that van for everything," he said.

A new, specially equipped van for a disabled driver would cost more than$32,000 -- definitely out of the Parkton resident's range. So when he asked Jackson if she could help find someone to donate money to either buy a new van or get his repaired, she went to work. First she contacted the channels she thought most likely to help -- the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the Kennedy Institute and others.

But they didn't pan out. She widened her search to Washington.

Jackson eventually found help for Sutton -- right in her own county.

The Weinglass Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Joppa and founded eight years ago by Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, founder of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises, came through.

The non-profitorganization, which works out of an office at Merry-Go-Round's national headquarters in Joppa, focuses on suffering individuals who need help to make life more comfortable.

In particular, the foundation grants wishes to terminally ill children. In 1991, the organization assisted 80 people.

"I just heard about some of the good things that the Weinglass foundation has done, and I hoped that they would be able to help me," Jackson recalls.

She wrote a letter to the foundation in November, and was surprised to hear from them within two weeks.

Deborah Laymen, administrative executive for the foundation, said that the foundation prides itself on cutting down on red tape. "We're different from most charities," she said. "We're set up to take care of immediate things that have to be done."

The foundation doesn't rely heavily on outside donations. Most of the money comes directly from Weinglass and his wife, Pepper, who reside most of the year in Aspen, Colo.

Ask Laymen why Weinglass set up the foundation, andshe replies, "He's a very generous man."

In the past, the foundation has purchased medicine, Cabbage Patch dolls at Christmas and sentterminally ill children to Disney World.

Usually, the organization works with families referred to them by hospitals or other organizations assisting people with medical needs, such as the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.

Sutton's situation was unusual for the foundation since its focus is on children with life-threatening illnesses or people in otherwise dire situations, says Laymen.

"We do have guidelines on what type of help we give," Laymen said. "However, Marion (Jackson) was very persistent."

That persistence paid off. The Weinglass Foundation donated $3,500 to rebuild the engine in Sutton's van, fix the heating system and make other repairs.

Jackson said the assistance came at a critical time for Sutton because he needed transportation to school so he can land an accounting degree -- his ticket to a more secure lifestyle.

"He was about to start school, andthe Weinglass foundation wasable to get the job done very quickly," said Jackson.

At 48, Sutton is working on rebuilding his life.

He dropped out of high school, joined the Marine Corps and then worked as a truck driver. Following a diving accident in 1978, which left him without the use of his legs and only limited use of his arms, Sutton found himself with no job, no high school diploma and limited jobskills.

Since then he's worked with various rehabilitation programs, attended adult education classes and received his high school diploma. He now attends Towson State University, seeking a degree in accounting.

As for his accomplishments, Sutton attributes them to histrusty van and the mobility it provides.

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