Last Friday, Rebecca “Becky” Fulcher attended the annual Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas awards banquet.
She had been nominated for the Peter John Loux Award, which seeks to recognize people for their determination in overcoming physical disabilities.
So had Jeanne Gordon, a woman who became a quadriplegic at age 50 when she was riding a bicycle with her daughter in 2006 and was struck by a truck. Gordon’s daughter was killed.
After the accident, Gordon learned to paint with a mouth stick and began speaking to area students about learning to have a positive outlook on life.
“I thought when I heard her story, I was just like … wow! She was so much more deserving of everything,” Fulcher said Wednesday. “She went through a crazy time.”
Both Gordon and Fulcher won the award and $1,000 each in an endowed gift.
But then Gordon heard Fulcher’s story during the awards presentation.
How Fulcher was born with Friedreich’s ataxia – a form of muscular dystrophy – but wasn’t diagnosed with it until 2004. How Fulcher, 19, a freshman at Wichita State University, where she is studying journalism and is involved in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, navigates campus in her wheelchair.
How Fulcher said she planned on using her award money to help purchase her first vehicle, a handicapped-accessible van.
Gordon heard that and remembered her first van and how jostling around in it was hard on her body, according to a news release from the CPRF. While Gordon – who refused to be interviewed – was getting her photo taken with the award and her family, she made the decision to donate her $1,000 to Fulcher.
“I related to her situation,” Gordon said in the news release. “I really believe this might have been divine intervention.
“I wanted to do something memorable with my $1,000. … It became clear this was the best idea – to help her get a little closer to buying her van.”
When Gordon made her decision, Fulcher and her mother had already left the ceremony and were in a vehicle ready to pull out of the parking lot; then they heard about Gordon’s generosity. They went back inside to talk with Gordon.
“It was a sweet moment, being able to tell her,” Gordon said in the news release.
“I was really so shocked,” Fulcher said Wednesday. “She was so deserving of it.”
Fulcher said she usually travels now through the kindness of family and friends. People must lift her into a vehicle.
With a van equipped with an accessible lift, she thinks she will have more independence.
“It’ll really help with everything that I want to do and have going on – getting around school, going out with my friends and, eventually getting a job and being able to commute there,” Fulcher said.
Fulcher said she hopes to get the van by summer.
“I really want a blue one, but my mom told me not to be picky and just be happy with what we find,” she said.