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Donors to deliver handicapped-accessible van to Watertown town clerk

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WATERTOWN — Paralyzed from the waist down, Watertown Deputy Town Clerk Pamela D. Desormo no longer will have to rely on family and friends to get around.

Mrs. Desormo, 49, also won’t have to wait to see if she wins a contest for a handicapped-accessible van.

That’s because on Monday, a group of anonymous local business owners donated a van with which the wheelchair-bound Mrs. Desormo can drive herself to and from work, go grocery shopping and attend her 10-year-old daughter’s school events.

“It makes me feel people are caring and want to do things to help other people,” she said.

Mrs. Desormo was one of 147 finalists nationwide hoping to win a handicapped-accessible van through a national contest organized by the Tampa Bay, Fla.-based National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. Mrs. Desormo dropped out of the contest when told of the donated vehicle.

Bound to a wheelchair for nearly two years, Mrs. Desormo has needed help to get into and out of the car wherever she goes. The van — expected to cost $40,000 to $50,000 to refurbish — will make life easier, she said.

Town Supervisor Joel R. Bartlett called her at the Town Hall Tuesday to tell her that the group of about eight businessmen wants to buy her the van. Mrs. Desormo, wife of Scott D. Desormo, said she has no idea who they are. Mr. Bartlett would not identify them. “I’m sworn to secrecy,” he said. “They don’t want the publicity. They just wanted to make sure Pam got the van she needs.”

The van came about after Mr. Bartlett recently talked to one of the businessmen about the contest, and he approached the others about donating to the cause.

Mrs. Desormo said she is overwhelmed by the gesture — and all the people who took the time to vote for her in the contest.

She said she looks forward to the independence to do things when she wishes and not to rely on others.

“Most people would want to take credit,” she said. “It’s awesome. It makes it more unbelievable.”

Next Wednesday Mrs. Desormo hopes to go to Rochester to pick up the van from a company that refurbishes vehicles. It will be transformed to fit her needs. It will be refitted with a ramp, an adjustable seat and hand controls that will allow her to drive.

Town Clerk Catherine M. “Caye” Rich, her friend and co-worker, couldn’t believe it when she heard the news. “There’s so much good in the community,” she said. “It’s uplifting.”

Mrs. Desormo also has relied heavily on her daughter, Haylee, to help her around the house, she said.

More than 18 million people in North America live with restrictive mobility issues, according to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.

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