Brandon raises big bucks to get local man outdoors in all-terrain wheelchair
BRANDON — Ben Wimett has been hunting and fishing for over 20 years, but it’s gotten more difficult as he’s gotten older.
“My body has gotten some arthritis and bone and muscle deterioration, so if I move the wrong way, I could break a hip,” he said. “My durability has taken a hit.”
Wimett, 35, was born with cerebral palsy and cannot walk. He is a technology specialist by trade and in his spare time advocates for differently-abled Vermonters. He is a passionate outdoorsman, but has found it harder and harder to access the woods, lakes and creeks he loves so much.
After posting a photo of the 18-pound tom turkey he shot this month — his first turkey ever — Wimett mentioned he was researching all-terrain wheelchairs. They are expensive, between $13,000 and $17,000. Then Wimett’s dad, Dave Wimett, was talking to his mechanic about the ATV wheelchair.
“The guy handed him $100 and told him to put it toward the chair,” Wimett said early last week. “So on Saturday afternoon (May 9), I decided to start a GoFundMe.”
Wimett listed the fundraising goal at $17,000. Within 12 hours, over $4,700 was raised. By the evening of Monday, May 11, that amount had jumped to $7,800. The next morning, the donations were still coming in and the amount raised was $8,055 from 140 donors with 1,200 link shares.
Wimett was floored.
“I’m going to sleep with the biggest smile on my face,” Wimett posted on the GoFundMe site. “This has been the most incredible week of my life for various reasons, and I’m incredibly humbled and grateful beyond words. Thank you, thank you, thank you and have a wonderful night.”
In the past few years, Wimett said, his body had changed and his mobility has been affected, limiting his ability to get outside and pursue his passions of hunting and fishing. He said his dad and the rest of his inner circle can’t just pick him up and fling him over their shoulders like they used to. His body can’t take that kind of movement anymore.
“I had to acknowledge that I couldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “I needed to find new and creative ways to do the things I love.”
In his day job as a tech specialist, Wimett helps differently-abled people find new technology to increase their accessibility. He said he was aware of all-terrain wheelchairs, but had never really looked into them before.
“You know how sometimes you get so inside your work, you forget to take care of yourself?” he asked. “That’s kind of how that happened.”
Wimett has his sites set on the Action Trackchair, which features triangular tracks instead of wheels. It can be immersed up to a foot of water or packed snow and comes with studs on the tracks. The chair can be outfitted with fishing rod holders and gun holders.
There is more good news. Wimett said the price of the chair is substantially less than he originally thought. It’s now closer to $13,000.
“We’re in even better shape than we thought,” Wimett said.
The Brandon native said that his life in general, and the GoFundMe in particular, just shows the power of pure effort.
Trying anything new is always a challenge and you face obstacles, Wimett said, but “it doesn’t hurt to try. It never has, and it never will. I wouldn’t have gotten this far in life without trying.”
Try he did. And here are the results.
Last week, Ben Wimett’s community showed its kindness and respect by helping him raise $17,819… in seven days.
“A total of 275 individual donors ranging from retired paraeducators to occupational therapists to businesses,” Wimett said, “and everybody showed up. Never in a million years did I think this would happen.”
Wimett said the company that makes the Action Trackchair gave him a deep discount so it will cost closer to $13,000. Because the chair is significantly larger than his traditional electric wheelchair, Wimett hopes to buy a trailer with the additional money raised.
It gets better.
Wimett said if there is any money left in donations after that, he wants to create a nonprofit to raise money and purchased an Action Trackchair for someone else.
“It’s beneficial to me, but what I really enjoyed was hearing about was how happy people were to donate to something positive to someone they knew,” he said.
The community loves him.
“Yeah, and it shows,” Wimett said. “We never expected this and we’re so grateful … this is a great community.”
More information is online at gofundme.com/f/allterrain-wheelchair-for-benjamin-wimett. You can also visit his Facebook page at Benjamin John Wimett for updates and links to the fundraiser.