Employer, Coworkers, David’s Wishing Star Fund and Community-At-Large Raised $20,000 For Wheelchair-Accessible Van
EATONTOWN, NJ (May 13, 2016) — Because of his dad’s workplace and community generosity, now the question for 10-year-old Damarius and his family is no longer “what to do on Father’s Day”, but how many places they can go and experiences they can have. And even more importantly, “where they and their family can now go easily everyday”.
This week Damarius Roman, who lives with an aggressive form of muscular dystrophy, got to celebrate his newfound freedom and debut his new retrofitted Dodge Grand Caravan to those who generously funded it … and his dad Mike could not be happier. Along with his mom Marilyn, dad and siblings Yazmarie, 13, and Dominick, 4, Damarius headed to Capitol Lighting on Route 35 in Eatontown, New Jersey where his dad has worked for 11 years. They went to show off the new van and give thanks to Capitol Lighting and dad’s fellow employees who through Capitol’s Making Lives Brighter Initiative helped raise the money for the new wheelchair-accessible van. Moved by reading about Capitol’s effort, Camille Vaccari, who founded David’s Wishing Star Fund, matched Capitol Lighting’s significant donation. Along with many friends and family and those touched by Damarius’ story, the effort raised the $20,000 needed in six months via a GoFundMe.com campaign that was started by his father and mother.
“Muscular Dystrophy has taken so much from Damarius’s childhood and we refused to let it take his freedom,” shared Mike Roman. “With a wheelchair- accessible van, Damarius is now able to participate in family outings and have his freedom back so he can live his life to the fullest.”
Dedicated to ‘making lives brighter’ since his great grandparents opened their first store in New Jersey in 1924, Capitol Lighting CEO Ken Lebersfeld added that it was only natural for Capitol Lighting and its employees to rally for one of its own. Support spanned from coworkers at Capitol’s nine showrooms in New Jersey and Florida and Internet store 1-800Lighting.com to vendors and customers.
Because Damarius and his family refused to let circumstance dictate his happiness, Capitol Lighting launched a matching donations challenge and e-blast campaign with fellow employees companywide spreading the word about the Roman family’s GoFundMe.com website. The site shared his story and the crowd-funding goal to purchase and custom build out a wheelchair accessible van. Hearing Capitol’s reach out for of the need, David’s Wishing Star Fund granted a matching donation to Capitol’s donation so the van could be purchased and then sent for retrofit for wheelchair accessibility.
“We encouraged everyone we knew to join us in helping make a difference for the Roman family,” shared Lebersfeld. “Their courage, tenacity, passion and love ‘enlighten’ Damarius’s life everyday…each of us at Capitol wanted to help turn up that brightness.”
Physically challenged since birth, having undergone five surgeries for his clubbed feet and subsequently diagnosed with Duchenne (DMD), an aggressive form of muscular dystrophy, Damarius is completely wheelchair-bound. As he got older – growing in height and weight – it became more physically challenging as well for those who love and care for Damarius to move him from his wheelchair into any type of transportation to take him to doctors, on family outings, and to play dates with friends.
In recent years he could not leave the house — ever– without his dad having to hoist him up on his shoulders and put him in and out of their car. It became impossible to his mom to do it all by herself while dad was at work. His mom Marilyn is now a stay-at-home mother of three as it became necessary in 2013 for her to leave her full-time job as a medical assistant to serve as a caregiver for Damarius who she also home-schools.
According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association website, it was only “until relatively recently, boys with DMD usually did not survive much beyond their teen years. Thanks to advances in cardiac and respiratory care, life expectancy is increasing and many young adults with DMD attend college, have careers, get married and have children. Survival into the early 30s is becoming more common, and there are cases of men living into their 40s and 50s.”
Capitol’s ‘community giveback’ generosity has always been part of the Lebersfeld family and retail legacy. Annually the company donates more than $170,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours to community nonprofits. Through its employee-driven ‘Making Lives Brighter’ program, staff members themselves help identify important missions that they find most meaningful for their communities and recommend ways in which the company’s charitable dollars and volunteer hours are invested to support them.