‘I love my freedom!’ 9-year-old receives her wheelchair accessible van

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 18:01:54-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. -- She's a 9-year-old who just got her first set of wheels, and grateful to be able to ride with her wheelchair now.

"This is how the ramp works, I just pull right in," said Ali Pummel-Stone beaming into FOX 17 cameras Friday afternoon.

Demonstrating her special three-point-harness seat belt and the fact that she slides into safety with the click of a button, Pummel-Stone says she's got her independence.

"It's just awesome now that I have my freedom back!" she said. "I love my freedom."

In April, FOX 17 shared her story when her mother was raising money for their first wheelchair accessible van.

"Welcome to the front of our car!" Pummel-Stone said.

You wouldn't know it by her animated high spirits, but Pummel-Stone is growing up working twice as hard. She has the joint and muscle disease Arthrogryposis, and has had 16 surgeries to help with her clubbed hands, feet and scoliosis.

"This van is a dream come true to me and my mother, because it saves a lot of work," she said.

This van comes just in time for an important pre-operation trip to Philadelphia: she and her mother make monthly trips there for her medical treatments, including a major surgery scheduled next month. Before this van they would have to leave her power wheelchair behind and bring a stroller.

"This is my back operation and I’m going to be putting a magic rod in my back," Pummel-Stone explained.

"Basically a magic rod is a giant rod that goes into the middle of my back to straighten out my curve, and each time I grow they have a special button and every time they press it, the rod grows with me."

Her Mother Rhonda Stone says it's been hard work: she is still raising money on their GoFundMe account; held a bake sale and benefit; and received four grants including one from the Michigan non-profit Lori's Voice. Stone says she financed the remaining $14,000.

"It is a blessing," said Stone. "I knew God wasn’t going to let me down, he kept me going. So we got it good.”