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Community comes together to provide new van for local family

After five months of fundraising, Traeh Paulin has received a new handicap accessible van.
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 10:37 PM CDT
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) -

In January, Sonia Dissayake turned her school project into a mission to help her teammate purchase a handicap accessible van for her sister, Traeh. From that project, “Wheels for Traeh” was born. Now after only five months, Traeh Paulin and her family received enough money to purchase a 2019 Dodge Caravan with full wheelchair accessibility.

“It just started as a hope,” Sonia said. “I thought I was just doing a school project, then it turned into something greater with multiple communities reaching out and helping,” she added.

The community helped out in a big way. One of the largest donations came from Wisconsin Rapids native and NFL player Vince Biegel, who raised money by auctioning off two of his signed jerseys.

“That got a lot of buzz going around and we were able to donate a little over $6,000 to their family,” said Sarah Biegel, Vince’s wife and coordinator of the jersey fundraiser.

The family has now had the car for a little over a week. It was a seamless process getting it from the lot to the driveway.

“It was just a matter of signing paperwork online and stuff like that and it was delivered to us a little over a week ago,” Traeh’s mother Rhonda Sanders said.

Rhonda had to carry Traeh to get her into the car whenever they left the house. But now their van has a ramp and other features that make getting around simpler

“Everything is all electronic and it is so much easier. It’s like night and day, very easy,” Sanders explained.

Sonia and Sarah made a trip to see Traeh’s new wheels on Tuesday. A small celebration for months of hard work.

“This is not about anything else but helping their family, and looking at the fruits of our labor,” Biegel added.

The blessing of the new car goes beyond the day to day commute. Both Rhonda and Traeh are thankful for everyone who donated.

“It’s a dream come true, it really is. We’re pretty much set now, so we’re really thankful,” Sanders exclaimed.

Copyright 2020 WSAW. All rights reserved.

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