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Published: Wednesday, 12/17/2008

Car club makes wishes come true for 2 youths

Brandon Lillibridge of West Toledo, left, and Tionne Vandevelde of Toledo, clutching Minnie Mouse, were helped by the Pacers Car, of which Jim Intagliata, right, is president. Brandon Lillibridge of West Toledo, left, and Tionne Vandevelde of Toledo, clutching Minnie Mouse, were helped by the Pacers Car, of which Jim Intagliata, right, is president.
JETTA FRASER / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

It's not every day that wishes come true, but it happened last week for two Toledo youngsters.

Culminating a year of fund-raising activities, The Placers Car Club of Toledo held a dinner Dec. 9 where they presented Brandon Lillibridge, 16, and Tionne Vandevelde, 7, with funds to fulfill two very different dreams: a shopping spree and a trip to Disneyland.

They were picked as recipients of the donation, totaling $7,400, by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a charity that helps grant wishes to youth with life-threatening medical conditions.

Brandon, a sophomore at Whitmer High School, was permanently paralyzed from the waist down and suffered complications from a spinal cord injury after he was in a car accident in May. Because he could no longer climb the stairs to his bedroom, his parents set up a bed for him in their dining room.

The money for the shopping spree was to allow Brandon to buy furniture and accessories for a new bedroom that is being added to his house courtesy of the local nonprofit organization The House Next Door.

"It's really awesome," said Brandon, who attended the dinner with his parents and brothers, Christopher, 18, and Andrew, 11. He said he was looking forward to buying couches and video games for his room.

Brandon's mother, Dawn, said the family also would buy a special bed for Brandon that helps to prevent pressure sores. She and her husband, Craig, said they could not have afforded the bed themselves, and the car club donation came as a huge relief.

"It's an answer to our prayers: to be able to make it through each day and know Brandon's being taken care of," Mr. Lillibridge said. "The shopping spree will allow Brandon to have what he needs in his new space."

For Tionne, a student at Winterfield Venture Academy, the prospect of visiting Disneyland in California gave her a grin the size of her tiny face.

She suffers from sickle cell anemia, and spends months at a time in the hospital, her father, Anthony Vandevelde, said.

"It'll be a great memory for her to have this Disney trip," Mr. Vandevelde said as he watched Tionne excitedly unwrap a large golden-haired doll, an extra present from the Placers Car Club.

"Without this kind of club doing this we wouldn't have had the opportunity."

Jay Salvage, the executive director for the Make-a-Wish Foundation in northwest Ohio who also attended the dinner, said he was impressed with how much money the Placers Car Club had raised for the children.

The organization relies on the fund-raising efforts of community clubs and groups to pay for around a quarter of all the wishes the organization grants to children, he said.

A trip to a Disney theme park is one of the most common requests the foundation receives from sick children, Mr. Salvage said. Others have asked to meet famous people, have a tree house, get a new computer, or attend a sports event, he said.

"The treatments they go through are so hard. They spend a lot of time in hospital," Mr. Salvage said of the children the foundation helps.

Having a wish come true "is something that in the midst of all that anxiety and pain, they know there'll be something good at the end of it. It helps them through."

Placers president Jim Intagliata said his 300-member club held monthly raffles at Cruise-In events to raise money for the two children.

He said it was the third year the club raised money for Make-A-Wish.

"It's an absolutely proud undertaking and a drive for our club to continue to do these cruise-ins and help children who don't have a bright future," he said.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6507.

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