Emily Progin, PR and Communications Coordinator
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COMMUNITY HELPING YOUNG MAN GAIN INDEPENDENCE WITH NEW VAN
Resilient 31-Year-Old Ryan Ouellette: “I Will Not Give Up Fighting for Myself”
CARIBOU, Maine—Ryan Oullette was forced to grow up fast. At age 10, he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy—a lifelong condition that would cause progressive issues with his muscles and mobility. At age 14, he was diagnosed with diabetes. Today, Ryan is a resilient and undefeated 31-year-old with a simple goal: to gain greater independence by purchasing a safe and reliable wheelchair van. His Caribou community is coming together to provide help and hope for Ryan’s quest, partnering with the trusted medical fundraising nonprofit Help Hope Live.
“I was hit with bombshells at a young age,” explained Ryan. Doctors initially told the scared 10-year-old and his mother that he had less than six months to live. A specialist in Bangor changed everything by establishing a new diagnosis: Beckars Muscular Dystrophy.
The diagnosis was so life-changing and medically complex that Ryan and his family qualified for a Make a Wish trip to Disneyland. “The doctors knew I was scared,” he said.
At age 12, Ryan found himself in the ER for an appendix removal. Surgery saved his life in the nick of time—doctors called him a miracle. At 14, he was hit with another medical challenge: a diabetes diagnosis. “My mom was freaking out,” Ryan explained, “but at this point, life had hit me so hard that I was a rock. I had learned to stay calm.”
A Caribou High School grad, Ryan and his parents have lived in the area all their lives. Ryan worked at the FFA Farm Stand and enjoyed local volunteer work—as his mobility became a challenge, “I picked vegetables with a cane,” Ryan said. His mother worked at Sitel and Shop ‘n Save in Caribou before her current role at Alpha One in Presque Isle. His father has worked for Guerrette Farms in Caribou and Haney’s Home, Farm and Garden in Caribou.
Today, Ryan’s community access is severely limited by lack of safe transportation. Because Ryan is in danger of falls and injuries, he’s been using a wheelchair for the past five years. That has led to greater reliance on his mom for support and caregiving. Transferring in and out of a regular vehicle is a huge challenge for both of them.
An accessible van will change everything, giving Ryan greater freedom, a reliable way to get to specialist appointments, and the priceless opportunity to feel like less of a burden on his family. Even something as simple as being able to run errands with family would significantly improve the quality of Ryan’s daily life.
When insurance refused to help with the cost of a van—over $50,000—Ryan turned to the trusted national nonprofit Help Hope Live to start a fundraising campaign.
Donations can be made at: https://helphopelive.org/campaign/21248/
“I will never give up fighting for myself,” said Ryan, “but I need others to join me in this fight.”
Unlike a GoFundMe campaign, donations to Help Hope Live are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law, and all funds raised will be managed by the nonprofit to cover verified medical and related expenses. Help Hope Live verifies medical and financial need for every patient.
Help Hope Live is a national nonprofit that specializes in engaging communities in secure, tax-deductible fundraising campaigns for people who need a transplant or are affected by a catastrophic injury or illness. Since 1983, campaigns organized by Help Hope Live have raised over $165 million to pay patient expenses. ###Written by Emily Progin