A gift from a stranger this Valentine’s Day has given a local disabled veteran his independence.
Craig Pearson, a Marine Corps veteran, was shot in the back nine years ago and left paralyzed from the waist down.
Vickie Love (yes, that's her real name) bought a her husband Cornelius Love III, who was was will in hospice care, brand new wheelchair-accessible Toyota Sienna in December. He died on Christmas Eve.
"I thought, instead of turning this in, why not give it to somebody who needs the ability to get out there and do things. My husband had a larger than life personality and loved to get out and go places," said Love.
Since Cornelius had been a 2nd Lt. in the Army Field Band, she wanted to find a disabled veteran. She found Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence in Chantilly, run by co-owner and veteran Tammy Phipps.
“He has no idea Mrs. Love went ahead and wrote a check driving equipment,” said Phipps.
In addition to the $73,000 sticker price of the van Love wrote a check for $6,500 to cover the installation of hand controls.
“I heard that this guy was going you have to raise the funds to be able to get the hand control. I said, 'no, I'll pay for that.' Just get this guy driving,” said Love.
And that, she did!
"Roll up here, I got a surprise for you, young man," said Love as she pointed inside the van to Craig. "It's ready for you. The hand-controls are there. You're ready to roll, my friend!"
"Nice. Dope. It's awesome. Thank you so much! Give me a hug again," Craig Perason seemed a bit overwhelmed, but extremely appreciative.
Pearson worked with his partner, Morgan, and DRCE, to pass his driving exam in November, but found the dream of a modified vehicle to transport his family, go shopping or help find a job to be out of reach –until Love intervened.
The organization that made the donation-part happen is the Connecticut-based Nonprofit Work Vessels for Veterans.