STAR, Idaho — In September of 2017, Nathan Ogden's wheelchair was stolen while he was enjoying a Boise State Football game. It made news all over the community! The wheelchair was eventually found abandoned near the stadium a few days later. But, Ogden says he got a taste of what living without a wheelchair was really like.
Ogden and his wife came up with an idea. A nonprofit that would provide wheelchairs to those in need. It's now a reality. It's called Chair the Hope.
"It wasn't until my chair was stolen four years ago that we truly decided we have to do something about this," said Ogden. "It was actually my wife's idea, and it was for our family to do something big to help other people, and it's something that we understand and get."
The Meridian man was paralyzed twenty years ago in a ski accident. He was 26.
"I came off a ski jump wrong, I landed on my neck and was paralyzed, and then a year later I fell off an x-ray table and I was injured worse," said Ogden. "So, what we do at Chair the Hope is so important to me. We take thousands of wheelchairs all over the world to different countries to people who don't have the opportunity to get them."
But, Chair the Hope's work is not just for those who are in other countries. The nonprofit does outreach right here in Idaho.
"We do a lot of local projects, from getting families vehicles, to helping transform their backyards so that families can get out with their kids or adult and live the life they want to live," Ogden told KTVB. " We don't want them to be stuck indoors and not feel like they can't accomplish things."
Ogden heard about the Yascovitch family in Star. They have a disabled 9-year-old son named Jase, and they needed a van to be able to get around as a family. Ogden wanted to help. Chair the Hope fixed up a used wheelchair adaptable van, and gifted it to the family.
"It opens up a whole other chapter for us," said Jase's mom, Tanelle Yascovitch in disbelief. The van is something the family could only dream of.
Tanelle and Matthew Yascovitch said their son was born with many medical complexities.
"At five weeks old he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and craniosynostosis. At six months old he had his first major brain and cranial repair, he was then later diagnosed with chiari malformation, scoliosis, hypertension and ROHHAD syndrome. He also has a fluid filled mass in his brain which is inoperable at this time due to the high risk. To date, he has roughly had about 16 major surgeries, and a year ago he suffered his second stroke which left him with limited mobility on his right side. From that point on, his health started to rapidly decline and he was not able to go to school. This past January, he suffered from a cardiac arrest and was in the hospital for four months. He is now homebound. Jase now is on a ventilator 24/7," said Tanelle Yascovitch.
But, despite all his setbacks, Jase continues to push forward and inspire all of those around him, including his medical team.
"This child has beat more odds, even his doctors are amazed at how much he overcomes, he has a long way to go, but he still amazes them," said Jase's proud mom. "He is definitely a fighter! We really want him to have as much normalcy as possible. We love going out as a family to eat and things like that, that wasn't going to be possible so this van will change that. Also, it's such a gift because financially, we weren't prepared for that kind of payment!"
Ogden says Access Vans and Blazek Diagnostics helped them outfit the used van for the family. It costs between $3,000 and $15,000 to modify a van and make it wheelchair accessible. The modifications can include widening the doors, adding a ramp, raising the roof, removing some seats, lowering the floors, or adding other custom specialized modifications like hand controls.
"This will allow their family to go play! To go travel to go camping, fishing, go to sporting events," said Ogden. "It means everything to me to be able to help families like this. I think too many times we look at someone with a disability, and think that they can't do things and we put limits on them. In reality, you just have to give people the opportunity to succeed and they will."
The Yascovitch family is so very grateful.
"Thank you isn't enough, the generosity is just overwhelming and it's an absolute blessing," said Tanelle Yascovitch. "I just feel like thank you isn't enough, but sincerely, thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
Jase's family wanted to reiterate how thankful they are to the Star community and Chair the Hope for all the love and support. Jase is 9, and plans to go back to Star Elementary this fall remotely as he continues to recover.
If you want to be a part of the amazing work that Chair the Hope is a part of, click here.
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