Riding in style like Ben Bellows: Man paralyzed after moose accident receives moving gift
Widow of outspoken advocate donates wheelchair-adapted van to Philip Drover
Philip Drover can now conveniently travel around and see homes in St. John's decorated for Christmas.
He can visit relatives outside the city, including his aging mother, without it costing hundreds of dollars.
It's all thanks to a heartwarming demonstration of generosity, one symbolic of the lasting legacy of a man who advocated for people injured in moose-vehicle collisions in Newfoundland and Labrador until his dying breath.
Drover and his family accepted the keys Wednesday to a wheelchair-adapted van, the same vehicle that helped the late Ben Bellows of Mount Moriah regain some independence.
Bellows's widow, Helen, made the donation during an emotional ceremony at an autobody repair shop in St. John's.
"He's with us today and I know he's so happy that I donated to somebody like himself," Helen said.
"Without a vehicle you got no quality of life."
Ben Bellows was paralyzed after his vehicle struck a moose in July 2003, a turn of events that completely transformed his life
A well-known musician and school board employee, Bellows was known for his endless energy, and would routinely harvest a truckload of firewood on his way home from work each day.
That all changed after the accident, and Bellows eventually turned his attention to advocating for highway safety and the rights of those injured in moose-vehicle accidents.
He became a prominent voice for the Save Our People Action Committee, a group more commonly known as SOPAC.
After 13 years of living with paraplegia and, in later years, struggling with leukemia, Bellows died Oct. 3.
The van has a replacement value of roughly $80,000, and its purchase was supported by groups like the Rick Hansen Foundation, named in honour of Hansen's Man in Motion world tour.
An emotional handover
Drover's story is very similar to Bellows.
He is quadriplegic, the result of a moose-vehicle collision in May 2013. The van will give him back some freedom and reduce his dependence on public transit.
"I'll be able to go places I never went before," Drover said. "I'd like to thank everyone."
Drover's wife, Brenda McKay, could not contain her tears.
"Now he can go around and see Christmas lights because he couldn't see nothing last year," McKay said.