CLERMONT, Fla. – A Mount Dora family won a nationwide contest to outfit its van with a wheelchair ramp and easy lock, which organizers said will bring the family independence and freedom.
MacKenzie Fritz, 22, calls the newly decked-out wheelchair-accessible van her baby. She said she is in love with it and is already planning trips with her family.
"You've got to take me to the mall and Disney," MacKenzie Fritz said to her father.
Her mother, Sandy Fritz, said her daughter outgrew their old van and the family needed a new one.
"She's got to tip the chair back in order to get in so she doesn't hit her head on the van," Sandy Fritz said.
But wheelchair-accessible vehicles are expensive. An average van costs $55,000.
MacKenzie's father sent a letter to VMI, a company that makes wheelchair conversions, as part of the company's "Driving Forward Together" sweepstakes. This summer, the Mount Dora family found out it had won the nationwide contest.
The family collected its $12,000 prize on Friday, to outfit its new van with a wheelchair ramp and easy lock.
MacKenzie said this makes traveling a better experience for her and her mother, who also has mobility issues.
"My mom can get in and out of it easier and I can get in and out of it easier than the other van," she said.
Jimmy Glock, with Mobility Works, said the company worked with the family to make sure it got the best van to meet its needs.
"To get them into a proper fit into a van, you can tell she is so happy and so exciting," Glock said.
Kayla Bartolucci, with VMI, said the new van is giving MacKenzie Fritz her freedom.
"It really gives MacKenzie that sense of independence and I think that's what we're all striving to do," Bartolucci said.
"I'd like to thank them so much for giving us this van. I'm going to cry. I'm so happy we won it," MacKenzie Fritz said.