Strangers raise funds for ‘life-changing’ van for paralyzed brothers

Chaffee Strong raises $45,000 toward $80,000 van

Chaffee brothers
Adam and Matt Chaffee (left to right) update their progress from their Grand Rapids Apartment. (September 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Spending most of their time in a small sixth-story Grand Rapids apartment, the past year has been about finding a new normal for paralyzed brothers Matt and Adam Chaffee.

“You have your good days, you have your bad days,” Matt told 24 Hour News 8.

“Getting out of the hospital, it’s really just been like, relearning how to do everyday stuff,” Adam added.Chaffee brother Collage 080115

The brothers were paralyzed in separate accidents only nine months apart. Matt lost the use of his legs after a motorcycle accident in November 2014, while a swimming accident left Adam paralyzed in July 2015.

Adam can move his arms, but doesn’t have full use of them.

“My strength is still getting a lot better, and I can do a lot more now than when I got out of the hospital,” added Adam.

After his accident, the brothers’ story went worldwide. Among those who saw it: Michael and Christine of West Michigan.

Left to right: Adam Chaffee, Matt Chaffee
Left to right: Adam Chaffee, Matt Chaffee

“It broke our hearts literally,” Michael said. “I thought to myself, we need to do something about this.”

The pair, who only wanted to be identified by their first names, discovered they weren’t alone. Another donor had hatched a similar idea months ago. So they teamed up to raise money for a fully-customized mobility van for the Chaffee brothers.

“Both Adam and Matt will be able to take their wheelchairs, and be able to roll up inside the vehicle,” explained Dawn Lubben of Clock Mobility.

Clock Mobility Chaffee brothers van
Dawn Lubben of Clock Mobility shows the interior of the van the Chaffee brothers hope to get. (September 2016)

“It will be life-changing,” Matt Chaffee said.

But the van costs about $80,000.

Despite their best efforts, the donors involved have raised only $45,000. Now they’re turning to the public for help.

“The objective is about giving. The objective is about the community perhaps stepping up and making the lives of these two boys better,” Michael said.

The brothers haven’t been able to visit their mom in northern Michigan since Adam’s accident; they haven’t been able to do many things people often take for granted.

“Adam can’t even go to a grocery store right now. Think about that: he hasn’t even been inside a Wal-Mart for over a year,” Matt said.

“Just one little thing like this –- (it) give(s) them some mobility. Get ’em out there, let ’em breathe, get some sunshine,” Michael said.

What the future holds for the brothers is still unknown, but it’s looking up.

Matt is playing wheelchair rugby, and they hope Adam can soon too.

Matt also wants to get back to work, while Adam would like to finish his degree. This van would help them accomplish all of that.

Michael and Christie have never met Matt or Adam. The donors said they were motivated to help after hearing of the brothers’ positive attitudes while facing adversity.

“The amount of hope that these boys have — tremendous hope –- they haven’t given up,” Michael said. “(Let’s) let them know that the community cares about them, that they’re not just sitting there in an apartment in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

The donors plan to hand the keys over to the brothers by the end of this month.

Those interested in donating toward the Chaffee’s mobility van should visit the Chaffee Strong fundraising website.

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