Knightdale paralyzed bride gifted with special van

Posted August 12, 2011

— A paralyzed Knightdale newlywed and her husband are still opening presents after their wedding last month.

Rachelle Friedman and Chris Chapman on Friday got a new Toyota Sienna minivan converted for wheelchair access.

"This van is crazy awesome," she said.

"It doesn't look like a car of a person with a disability. You wouldn't think that whoever drives that is in a chair. So I like that about it very much."

Donated van gives bride freedom to move Donated van gives bride freedom to move

Chapman said the hand controls promised by Raleigh company Van Products will give his bride one of the things she prizes the most. 

"Therapy and rehab is one of our biggest concerns right now, ever since she's been hurt," he said.

"The word that keeps going through our head is independence – what does she need to do to be independent? And this van is an enormous step for that."

Tim Harrell, president of Van Products, said he wants the same thing. "Her dream is to be able to drive again and that's what we want to see."

In May 2010, Friedman was paralyzed in a freak accident when one of her bridesmaids shoved her in a pool a month before her wedding. She crushed the sixth vertebra in her neck and was left paralyzed from the chest down.

After delaying the wedding for her recovery, the couple married on July 22.

Toyota officials heard about her story and decided to make the van a gift. It is equipped with a navigation system and voice-controlled phone. Braun Ability converted it for wheelchair access.

"I've never seen a van like that till they showed it to me, so I'm more than excited to drive it and ride it. I can't wait," Friedman said.

She will undergo special therapy in California next month. If that therapy helps her to drive, Van Products of Raleigh said it will adapt the car seat and controls to her needs.


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  • surpie51 Aug 22, 2011

    Lol...this couple hasn't received a dime for doing any appearance. Where do you get your info? If they had gotten a large sum of money it would have gone to her rehab. I know them personally and they are struggling financially. They have gotten SO much and are more than grateful but it doesn't pay the bills. Read the news dude. 1800 registry paid for the wedding and honeymoon.

  • MudLife Aug 22, 2011

    I like to see happy news. This story touched me. I'm glad that at the time her fiance stuck with her that he didn't just up and leave because shes in a wheelchair and that'd be extra work for him. You can tell he stayed true to his vows even before they got married. I have a feeling that oneday she will walk. If your determined and stick with it you can do anything that you want to do. It's good she didn't rat her best friend out either. It was an accident and it could have happened to anyone but didn't let "the fear of striking out, keep her from playing the game". She still got married and did everything a normal bride did. It was heartbreaking to read in one story how she wished she'd danced one more time with her fiance. :'(

  • 2alegal Aug 22, 2011

    doodle......jealous NO! Concerned about others who need assistance as well. Their case (laundry) is not being aired out in the media though.......I agree Prozac....Maybe some of that money could have gone to the house and/or the van........Charity is as charity it forward. Really!

  • scifion Aug 19, 2011

    >>"Then asked all the other vendors in town to donate their services.

    Not exactly charity in my book."

    What book are you reading? It's charity when I give the guy holding a sign on the street corner some change. It's not like I signed a contract with him to do so, and he certainly didn't hold a gun to my head for me to act. The complaints in this comment thread say more about those posting than this couple. Really.

  • LuvLivingInCary Aug 18, 2011

    These people got a big sum of money from the Today Show for the honor of doing a show about them on TV. They used it towards their reception and honeymoon. Then asked all the other vendors in town to donate their services.

    Not exactly charity in my book.

  • scifion Aug 17, 2011

    >>"You know folks, there are MORE out there besides this one."

    Do you honestly think people don't know that? Really??

    Bambi's mom has some advice for you.

    I'm very warmed by this story, and hope that its frequent posting will inspire others in positions to help to do what Toyota, et. al. did for this young couple.

  • doodle215 Aug 16, 2011

    2alegal...jealous much?

    Fantastic story! Her determination is inspirational. A BIG woot woot to Toyota, Van Products and Braun Ability!

  • 2alegal Aug 16, 2011

    You know folks, there are MORE out there besides this one. (These updates make it sound like this is the only girl who was/is this way). I support ALL causes and folks like this until I keep reading about them in the paper. Get someone some help that really needs it. We don't hear about the average Jane/Joe that had this done..........

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter Aug 16, 2011

    What a wonderful gift!!!!!!! Hi five to Van Products!!!!!!!

  • gpcatgirl Aug 15, 2011

    Some people have some serious issues is all I can say. God bless this couple. This is a awesome thing.