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Readers who remember mobilize vet
Store owner donates new wheels, many more eager to help man told to give back scooter
November 10, 2007
Robert Young has a new set of wheels.
"I can't believe it. I've gone from a deep depression to a high hype," said the 86-year-old World War II veteran yesterday when he was presented with a shiny new motorized wheelchair.
Earlier this week, the retired chiropractor was told by Veterans Affairs Canada the scooter supplied by them he had been driving for the last five years would be taken away because he is a "dangerous driver."
Young's story appeared on the front page of yesterday's paper and dozens of Star readers called to express their disgust with the decision by Veterans Affairs and to offer help to the man who just days before Remembrance Day said he had been feeling forgotten.
His old scooter has some scratches and paint chips, but Young explained he often has to use the scooter to bump open bathroom doors in public places not equipped with automated doors. The scooter also barely fits through the front door of his bungalow.
"When I read his story in the Star, it was unconscionable," said Svend Petersen, owner of Mobility Unlimited, a store that sells and rents power wheelchairs and scooters.
Petersen phoned the Star and within hours had loaded a black and red "Chinook" wheelchair onto his pickup and headed for Young's Etobicoke home.
The model sells for $4,500, but he gave it to Young for nothing.
A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs said it must be sure that when it provides equipment to veterans that it can be operated safely. Occupational therapists assess a veteran's abilities and decide on the most appropriate equipment.
"It is horrible what is done to our vets. I wish it was an isolated story, but I know it isn't," said Petersen.
Waiting in a manual wheelchair he said he isn't strong enough to operate, Young was overjoyed by the delivery.
"This is fabulous. This is so much better than my old one," he said as Petersen showed him how to operate the joystick.
"I'm not so depressed any more."
Young said he was shocked by the number of calls the Star had from people wanting to help. "I can't believe it. I am very thankful for this."
Pat Eales of Oakville said reading Young's story bothered her, as did the number of GO train passengers not wearing poppies.
"My father was a vet of the Second World War and he died last May," she said. "We have a scooter he only used 10 times. I'd love to give it to Dr. Young."
Russell Barth, of Ottawa, offered to give Young a wheelchair he no longer needs.
"I am living in a country that is rare in the fact that we have more freedoms than many other countries. I use those freedoms that Dr. Young helped us get. I'd love to give back to him," he said.
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