Riding in style like Ben Bellows: Man paralyzed after moose accident receives moving gift

He was an outspoken highway safety advocate when he was alive, and now the legacy of Ben Bellows will be moving around the streets of St. John's following a unique donation by his widow.

Widow of outspoken advocate donates wheelchair-adapted van to Philip Drover

Philip Drover of St. John's received the gift of accessible transportation Wednesday in the form of a donation of a wheelchair-adapted van from the widow of highway safety advocate Ben Bellows, Helen Bellows, right. Drover's wife, Brenda McKay, left, and Lucy Stoyles of an action committee fighting to reduce the number of moose-vehicle collision are also pictured. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

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.

Ben Bellows of Mount Moriah died in October at age 60. Bellows advocated for those hurt in moose-vehicle accidents for 13 years, after a crash in eastern Newfoundland left him partially paralyzed. (Facebook)

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

Drover, right, looks on as Bellows, left, and McKay look over the wheelchair-adapted vehicle that Bellows donated to Drover. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

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.

Drover, who was seriously injured following a moose-vehicle collision, is shown here with partner Brenda McKay and other family members. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

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.


Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, and is based in St. John’s. He previously worked for The Telegram, The Compass and The Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at: