LSU fraternity raises $20K to buy all-terrain, gun-holstered wheelchair to wounded veteran – The Advocate


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After he lost his right leg on a military base in Arizona, Capt. John-David Roberts was confined to flat surfaces, unable to hunt, fish or explore the outdoors in his wheelchair.

Now, almost five years later, the 50-year-old U.S. Air Force and Army veteran is outfitted with an all-terrain wheelchair that opens up a world of possibilities for him and his family — all thanks to a $20,000 fundraiser at LSU’s Kappa Alpha chapter.

Chapter president Paul Brown said the group presented a demo chair and LSU football tickets to Roberts and his family in the front yard of the fraternity house on Nov. 20.

Jake Netterville, the chapter’s philanthropy chair, said disabled veterans often have trouble engaging in off-road activities because of their wheelchairs’ limitations.

But tracked wheelchairs, like the one presented to Roberts, allow their users to go off-road, where run-of-the-mill wheelchairs are designed for even surfaces like cement or pavement. The all-terrain chair is outfitted with treads that look like those on a tank, allowing a smooth ride on all landscapes.

“This wheelchair can take you anywhere — through grass, sand, gravel, snow and even mud,” Netterville said.

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The group fundraised through phone calls, emails, alumni donations and give-back events at local businesses like Smalls Sliders and Andy’s Frozen Custard. Netterville said the chapter ventured away from its traditional philanthropic cause to focus on raising money for Roberts.

“We normally focus on people who have muscular dystrophy, but it seemed like every year we would raise a couple thousand dollars that winds up funding like five minutes of research,” he said. “We wanted to fundraise for something more tangible.”

The Independence Fund, an organization dedicated to helping wounded veterans, provided the new wheelchair.

“Being in the regular wheelchair has stopped me from going to lakes and national parks with my wife and kids, so this chair is going to give me a big part of my life back,” Roberts said. “Plus, it really looks like a tank, so that’s an extra perk.”

Roberts said his new chair includes a gun holster, rifle adaption and fishing rod holder. He said these modifications allow him to get a part of himself back that he thought would be lost forever.

“Veterans fought for our freedoms without expecting anything in return,” Brown said. “With this chair, we got to give some freedoms back to John-David.”

Email Caroline Savoie at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @CarolineSavo.

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