ZEPHYRHILLS — The family whose child nearly died after their stroller plunged into the Erie Canal nearly two years ago is among those in an online contest for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
Jon and Yvonne Clanton were in New York in August 2012 with their five kids, including three who have special needs — two were adopted from Ukraine orphanages and one a biological son. Jon Clanton, an ordained Assemblies of God pastor and state prison chaplain, was pushing then-8-year-olds Selah and Sam, in a double stroller while the family was on a trip to receive medical care for one of their children. When he paused to check his phone for the time, (his wristwatch was broken) he lost control of the stroller, which careened down the river bank. Clanton chased it and jumped into the water as the stroller sank. Some nearby medical students rescued the three.
Sam fully recovered, but Selah remained in a coma for eight weeks. Today she is at home in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents care for her with the help of a nurse, which the insurance company said last year it would no longer cover. The family got the nurse back after a story in the Tampa Bay Times prompted state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott to intervene.
Now the Clantons, who do not have a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, are among a group of "local heroes" being featured as part of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association's National Mobility Awareness Month campaign.
The Clantons' experience made national news. Two lesser-known local residents are also in the contest. Michelle Boniol, from New Port Richey, was diagnosed in 2012 with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy and is raising two boys alone, according to the website. And Madison Brightbill, of Spring Hill, uses a wheelchair following a traumatic brain injury suffered in a car accident.
Three winners, determined by online voting, will receive a vehicle tailored to their needs.
Voting began March and continues until May 9. Winners will be announced during National Mobility Awareness Month in May.
Visit mobilityawarenessmonth.com to vote. Limit is one vote per email address each day.