(UPDATE 2017: We reached our goal! Thanks to everyone who donated — we couldn’t have done it without you.)
I want to tell you a story about my friend Thom.
I thought about telling my history and background with Thom, how I met him, how we became friends, how we drifted apart, but I want to keep the story on Thom.
In 2013, Thom was in a motorcycle accident—a bad one, and right here in Denton.
He was paralyzed from the chest down.
I remember when it happened because I’m almost positive I drove past the scene of the accident that day—I had no idea it was my friend on the ground.
Strange how everyday tragedies can become so real so fast when you know the people involved.
Thom was riding his motorcycle down the road when an old man pulled out in front of him and changed both their lives forever.
The place that Thom was in before the accident is a story unto itself (Thom has given me permission to share this).
In 2011, Thom came into Solutions of North Texas, a non-profit in Denton that helps alcoholics and drug addicts get back on their feet. He was a hopeless alcoholic—he had struggled for a decade and a half to get clean.
And get clean he did. Despite the obstacles and the terrible odds, he got sober, got a job, got another, and another. He finally managed to get his life back to a point where he could pay his own bills, be his own person again.
He even managed to get transportation—all he could afford was a little motorcycle, but that seemed sufficient at the time.
He was thinking about going back to school—Thom probably won’t tell you this, but he dreams of being a high school math teacher. He wants to spend his life helping kids (bless his heart).
And then, just like that, his whole life exploded.
But Here’s The Miracle
Here’s why Thom amazes me so much.
Throughout his whole ordeal, the hospital stay, the great pain he was in, he never once relapsed and started abusing alcohol or drugs again.
And there is not a person on this planet who would have said anything if he had.
Everyone would have understood.
Despite all that, despite things that would have made would have tempted almost anyone to drink or use drugs, Thom stayed sober, and he stuck to the journey he started about a year before.
However, things were different after the accident—Thom couldn’t work, and his journey had to go backwards for a little while.
I Found Out Thom Needed Some Help
Up until about a month ago, I hadn’t talked to Thom basically since he got out of the hospital.
We drifted apart, joking around on Facebook here and there, but never anything deeper.
Then Thom messaged me out of the blue and asked me about a videogame.
I got excited, he got excited, long story short, we both started gaming online together.
And a friendship I forgot about was resurrected.
During one of those gaming sessions, we somehow came across the subject of transportation.
Specifically, Thom’s lack of transportation.
For the last three years, Thom has been completely dependent on his very close friend for transportation anywhere—transportation made more complicated and difficult because of his wheelchair.
As you might expect, this has made it very difficult for Thom to get back up on his feet. You’d be amazed what you can’t do when you can’t drive around.
Though he’d been slowly working the last three years towards independence, the road was long, and it was rough going. He would need state assistance to get an electric wheelchair (something he’s almost got secured).
He had even managed to get a part-time job lined up—getting full-time work is difficult without reliable transportation, but the part-time job means the state of Texas would be able to pay for modifications to a vehicle.
There was only one piece of the puzzle left—the vehicle itself.
I learned that he needs an enormous sum to get a vehicle (enormous to me anyway)—$39,500. He can’t just get any old car: he needs a van that can be modified for him to drive, a van that will last a while. He’s spent some time looking, and he’s settled on a Toyota Sienna.
The modifications are expensive, so both Thom and The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) want him to get a van that will last as long as possible.
In fact, the van can’t have more than 20,000 miles on it. The main reason we need to raise the money is to get the monthly payments down.
Even a used van will have a very high monthly payment—Living on social security disability and making a monthly payment of over $700 a month isn’t exactly feasible.
Though his part-time job will provide income, the amount is unsure—he’ll be completely on commission.
The part-time job is a means to an end: it allows DARS to justify modifying the van. Once he has that van, he’ll be able to look for work that’s more reliable. He’ll also be able to go back to school—He’s already been accepted at the University of Texas at Arlington.
He knew that he needed to do some sort of fund raising if he ever wanted to make this a reality…
But I know Thom. He used to be a pretty cocky dude—but now, he’s one of the most humble people I know. Humble to a fault.
When he started explaining all this to me, I already knew the end of the story—Thom’s never going to raise this money for himself.
His character just wouldn’t allow it.
But, needing to fill the air with mindless chatter, I asked him a pretty stupid question:
“Why haven’t you done any fundraising?”
He said something that was so profound it was almost like a slap in the face:
Adam, when you can’t walk, sometimes your mind starts telling you that you can’t do other things too.
I knew then that I had to do something to help. Thom wasn’t going to do this himself, and I couldn’t do it for him, but together, we could get the word out.
Still, I knew just the two of us couldn’t do it alone—we would need a website, a way of taking donations, and communities to support the effort.
Alone, I could never get Thom the van I want in my heart to just give to him.
But together, we can help this man get his life back on track.
I knew Blue Steele Solutions had the resources to spread the word, and Heather agreed to help build the website almost before the request left my mouth.
I knew that Give would be the perfect solution for taking donations—I asked their marketing manager, Bridget, if Give would be a good fit, and she answered back with more info and help than I could shake a stick at.
I also knew the Denton community and the WordPress community could help too—as long as I let them know. Even Solutions of North Texas could help spread the word.
Let’s Help Thom Get A Van
There have been more than a few times in my life where things didn’t good, inside or outside, but I cannot imagine what it must be like to have all your progress ripped away from you like it was from Thom.
I told Thom that night that I would help him get a van, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.
My goal is for Thom to get a van within the next three months, though I’d love to do it in a month—his new job is in the bag, a sales position with his father’s company, ready for him and his van.
Giving Thom a van wouldn’t just help him get back on his feet—it could eventually help him get back to the community in Denton, a community he has been forced to abandon because he simply can’t get up here.
He just needs that pesky van.
We’ve created a WordPress website where you can donate, using Give, towards Thom’s van.
Other than transaction fees through PayPal, all proceeds go directly to Thom.
Though our goal is to get Thom a brand new van, making him mobile for at least a decade, we would also gratefully accept a donated van.
I know this post was long, but it’s not often I get the chance to talk about something this cool. I’ve rediscovered a friendship for which I’ll be forever grateful, but damn I’d be happy to see Thom move on to the next phase of his life.
I hope you’ll help—and it doesn’t have to be donations. Spread the word, let people know, post it on social media, share it with your friends and family, whatever, every little bit helps.
Thanks to everyone for helping Thom get a van!