Knights provide funds to modify van for Dartmouth woman

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By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff

DARTMOUTH, Mass. — Thanks to the charitable efforts of a local Knights of Columbus council, a Dartmouth woman was recently able to get a much-needed upgrade and modification to her main source of transportation.

Twenty-one-year-old Karysa Brayton is afflicted with a rare neurological disorder called Joubert Syndrome, characterized by the absence or underdevelopment of the cerebellum — an area of the brain that controls balance and coordination — as well as a malformed brain stem. Brayton is non-verbal and non-ambulatory, but that doesn’t stop her from doing the things she enjoys like going to the movies, hanging out at the park and attending shows. 

Although the Brayton family bought Karysa a minivan when she was younger in order to transport her to doctor’s visits, family gatherings or outings, family members and caregivers would have to lift her from her wheelchair and place her in the van. As she has gotten older, it has been increasingly more difficult to transport Karysa safely and while in the van she only had traditional seatbelts to keep her in the seat, which were less than desirable given her decreased muscle tone and strength.

With the help and support of the Father John F. Hogan Council No. 14236 Knights of Columbus, the Braytons were able to successfully apply for a $7,500 grant to make the necessary modifications to their existing handicap-accessible minivan.

“The state council of the Knights of Columbus will generally give a grant of $7,500 to help handicapped people modify and purchase vans,” said Chris Pereira, grand knight of the local KOC council. “It’s a way to help handicapped people to get around and make sure they are in a safe and secure vehicle.”

While the funds are administered on the state level, Pereira said the local council facilitates with the application process and helps to identify local families that are in need.

“We connect with the families and we sit down with them and go through the application process, we explain to them the program and we put together all that information — the information about the program, the application packet, and the individual’s information and their need — and we send it up to the state council,” Pereira told The Anchor. “When it gets approved, the state council will send us the $7,500 check, which we then give to the company that’s providing the modification.”

Pereira said the KOC first became aware of Karysa’s plight through a friend of the family.

“We found out about Karysa through members of the KOC and also through a non-profit employee who is a friend of theirs — it was a family friend who first reached out to the Knights,” he said. “They knew about the work we do in the community and they heard about this program. So they reached out to us and we were able to help them out. We were obviously thrilled to be able to do so.”

The KOC remained involved throughout the process, Pereira said, even checking in with the auto body shop that did the work on the minivan.

“We take pictures of the van and make sure it’s taken care of properly,” he added. “That’s what we were able to do in this situation and it worked out great. We were not only able to facilitate the grant which helped them, for the first time, have a modified van that is suitable for all her needs, but we also saw the whole process through.”

With the modifications complete, the minivan is now custom-fit for Karysa’s needs and is 100 percent safe for her to travel while seated in her wheelchair.

Pereira said it was a proud moment to see Karysa and her parents take delivery of the newly-upgraded minivan recently.

“It was great to see them and chat with them and they are obviously thrilled with the van,” Pereira said. “They get to use it every day and it was fantastic to be able to help them and to show that throughout the community — and not just the Knights — there are so many good, charitable Catholic organizations ready to help on a daily basis.

“We were delighted and honored to help this young woman and her wonderful family.”

The Father John F. Hogan Council No. 14236 Knights of Columbus, which serves the parishes of St. Mary’s in South Dartmouth and St. Julie Billiart in North Dartmouth, was formed in 2007 and currently has 73 active members, but Pereira noted “we’re growing.”

“We’ve added about 20 members over the last two years and we have some candidates who are pending members and they just have to go through the membership process,” he said. “We’re thankfully growing and because of our growth and interest, we’re able to help more and more people.”

Pereira said his council is also in the midst of starting a college KOC council at UMass Dartmouth and will be meeting with the campus ministry at Bishop Stang High School in the coming months to establish a Columbian Squires program at the school.

The Knights of Columbus is a Roman Catholic fraternal service organization with 15,000 councils and more than 1.8 million members in the United States. There are also more than 200 college councils. The Knights participate in many charitable events and work with a variety of nonprofit groups to support the community. The Knights of Columbus stand for four core principles, which are charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.

For more information about the Father John F. Hogan Council No. 14236 Knights of Columbus, visit www.stmarysdartmouth.org/knights-of-columbus/.

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts