Wheelchair van on family’s wish list

SNOHOMISH — Jonah Erickson loves being outside. At 4, he pretends to mow the lawn — riding his power chair.

The Snohomish area boy was born with spinal muscular atrophy type 2. A genetic disorder, it causes weakness in the voluntary muscles of his arms and legs.

“It is progressive, it causes muscle wasting,” said Debbie Erickson, Jonah’s mother. She and her husband, Philip Erickson, are encouraged that new medicines show some success in maintaining muscle strength and function. “We hope to stop his regression and maintain what he has,” she said.

The family has another hope. They are entered in an online contest, related to Mobility Awareness Month, and have a chance to win a wheelchair accessible van. Through May 10, people who read Jonah’s story at www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com have the opportunity to vote online. It’s free, and votes can be cast multiple times, Erickson said.

The family has a van now, an eight-passenger Chevy Astro. But with six children — the baby is almost 2, the oldest is 17 — their vehicle won’t fit the whole family and Jonah’s chair. They often take two cars for family outings.

May is recognized as National Mobility Awareness Month. It’s an effort of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association to highlight needs of people with disabilities and their capacity for full and mobile lives.

According to the association, 18 million people in the United States and Canada have mobility issues; 6 million of those are veterans.

Debbie Erickson said Jonah was born with his condition, but it wasn’t diagnosed until he was about 8 months old. Before that, she said, “he wasn’t bearing weight.” Trouble became clear when he didn’t crawl or sit up on his own.

Now, Jonah can sit if supported by a corner of the couch or a little chair. He suffers pain caused by hip dislocation, his mother said, and has also had respiratory issues. Jonah has been treated by specialists at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Erickson was aware of the Mobility Awareness Month contest last year, but didn’t get a chance to enter. Three contestants will win vans, and judges will choose from entrants with the highest vote totals. “It’s a long shot,” she said.

A joy to his family, Jonah keeps rolling along.

“He’s the cutest little guy,” Debbie Erickson said. “He tells us he loves us a million times a day.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

How to vote

Debbie and Philip Erickson hope to win a wheelchair-accessible van for their 4-year-old son, Jonah. He is unable to walk due to spinal muscular atrophy type 2. To vote in the online Mobility Awareness Month contest: www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/jonah-erickson-everett-wa.

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