It’s the Bentley of wheelchairs.
Jenna Martel’s new wheelchair is fast, has headlights, taillights and turn signals, plus GPS and Bluetooth.
But, more importantly, it can recline fully so the 14-year-old Chilliwack teen can lie down while still in her chair, taking pressure off her hips.
Jenna has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, a condition in which her body and muscles are constantly tense and pulling against each other. She’s had the condition since birth and it affects both her arms and legs.
Purchasing the new $39,000 wheelchair was made possible thanks to Variety – the Children’s Charity and one generous donor in Kelowna.
Back in September, Jenna’s story was featured on a Global BC newscast during Variety Week, a five-day long campaign where viewers see updates on kids who have been helped through the Variety Show of Hearts Telethon (which takes place every year in February). Variety Week also introduces viewers to new kids who need their help and they are encouraged to call in and donate to Variety – the Children’s Charity.
When her story was broadcast back in the fall, Jenna and her father, Eddie Martel, told people about her condition and that she was in need of a new wheelchair which costs $39,000. They had some money already, but still needed $26,000 more.
The day after Jenna’s story aired, a man named Bill in Kelowna contacted Variety saying he wanted to help. There were actually multiple people who wanted to pay the full amount for the wheelchair, but Variety chose Bill.
“She made waves all across B.C. There was quite a lot of interest,” Eddie said.
When asked what it is about Jenna that made so many people want to help, Eddie replied with a big smile.
“She’s cute,” he laughed. “Her story, in general, it really pulled on some heartstrings for people.”
Thanks to that single donation, Jenna got the wheelchair of her dreams at the end of November.
“It’s the best thing ever. It goes fast. It goes way faster than my other chair ever did.
“And, it is sooo comfortable,” she added, smiling. “Just being able to take the pressure off… it feels so good.”
Her old wheelchair was “not fun,” she said. Even though the seat would tilt back, she would still be in a seated position. Her new chair can fully recline and it can raise her to a standing position so she can stretch out her hips and legs, which is crucial since, aside from sleeping, Jenna spends 98 per cent of the day in her wheelchair.
There are also leg braces and foot cuffs on the chair so her legs can stay in a proper position.
Without the braces, her legs would cross and even though it’s not painful, doctors want to see if they can correct the position of her legs.
“I’m grateful we were able to participate (in Variety Week) and there was such a good response from the community. It restored my faith in humanity,” Eddie said.
“Bill, he is just amazing. He sent (the kids) money for Christmas presents, too.”
“Bill is a very nice man and I would love to meet him in person,” Jenna said, adding that she’s “very thankful” for all the help from him, Variety, and others who have helped.
“It’s awesome,” Jenna said.
Had it not been for Bill, Jenna would not have been able to get the top-of-the-line chair she has now. They would have had to purchase a different one that would have been quite a step down and would not have had all the bells and whistles that this one does.
And yes, along with having lights and signals just like a car, Jenna’s new wheelchair also has a horn.
You can catch Jenna’s updated story this Saturday between 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. during the 55th annual Variety Show of Hearts Telethon on Global TV.
The three-day event kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 18 and continues through to Saturday, Feb. 20.
Donations to Variety can be made by calling toll-free at 310-KIDS as well as online at variety.bc.ca or by texting “KIDS” to 45678 to make an automatic $20 contribution.