This photo of Tyler Head was taken earlier in his road to recovery. The addition of the van will make life easier for both him and his family.
CONYERS -- If you ever need a friend, Chris West, shop foreman with R&R Mobility of Conyers, is the man you want.
About three months ago, West took it on himself, with a whole lot of help from his friends, to build a customized wheelchair accessible van for Tyler Head of Covington. Head was surprised with the new van Thursday afternoon.
In late December, Head suffered a serious neck and spinal cord injury during a Newton High School wrestling team match. Following emergency surgery, he was hospitalized at Atlanta's Shepherd Center for several months where he underwent intensive rehabilitation therapy. The 16-year-old remains wheelchair-bound.
"These vans are not cheap. That's why I did this -- to help someone out," West said, adding that the conversion that had been made to the van the Head family is receiving as a gift would have normally cost between $10,000 and $15,000.
West, who customizes vans for handicapped people for a living, said he first heard about Head when R&R Mobility was contacted by one of their vendors, Olympic Tire of Conyers, and asked to participate in a yard sale to raise money for the family. That started the wheels turning in West's head.
"I got with the owner of R&R Mobility, Rodney Wilson, and he had a van out back that needed a lot of work. We were going to use it for parts, but he ended up telling me I could use that van for Tyler if I wanted," West said. "I called a lot of the companies we deal with and they all contributed to fixing the van up for him."
All it took was a new paint job, new carpeting, a new headliner, new wheels and tires, a new exhaust system, fully refurbished mechanical parts and a new Kenwood stereo system -- and a whole lot of man hours after a full day's work and on weekends.
The 1996 Plymouth Voyager now looks, and for all intents is, brand new.
West was quick to say he didn't achieve this alone, and said he was thankful to one and all for not just their financial support, but those who gave time, compassion and love to make the gift of the van possible.
In addition to himself, he said the following individuals contributed to the project: David Hoover, Michael Bortvit, Ross White, Chris Collins, Barry Wilson, Jim Wilson, Wayne West, Robert Bailey and David Pendleton.
The following businesses also donated goods and services: R&R Mobility Vans & Lifts, Olympic Tire, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Conyers Muffler, R&R Paint and Body, Automotive Detailing Inc., Derek's Mobile Detailer, Vantage Mobility International Inc., Audio Concepts, Tyco Signs and Elite Pawn.