Fundraiser to help pay forward van donated for ALS patients

A yard sale fundraiser to raise money for the last payment of “the Keenan Van” will take place today from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Palisade High School.

The Keenan Van is a custom made, handicapped-equipped van that was purchased for Dan Keenan, an ALS patient who died from complications of the disease in November 2012.

“The funds we are raising will go into the Keenan Van Mobility Fund, which is supporting people and families in western Colorado suffering from ALS,” said Tom Keenan, Dan’s brother.

Better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a progressive and degenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Those diagnosed with the disease usually die within three to five years.

Dan was diagnosed with the disease in 2010 and had the $43,400 van custom made because normal handicapped-equipped vans were not big enough for him and his wheelchair. Tom Keenan started the fund to help Dan pay for the van.

But Dan didn’t want to be the only one to use the van. Knowing the potential briefness of the disease, Dan decided that others in western Colorado suffering from ALS should get to use it too.

Dan only got to use the van for 600 miles before he died, mainly to attend local sporting events. But, not wanting to leave future ALS patients and their families with the financial burden of paying off the expensive van, the Keenan family continued with their fundraising efforts after Dan’s passing, so his dream of “paying it forward” could live on.

The Keenan Van is about $500 from being paid off, Tom Keenan said. The fundraising will not end there, though. Maintenance, license plate renewal and insurance still have to be covered. Because of liability issues, the van cannot simply be given to a family, Keenan said.

“We basically sell it to them for a dollar, with the unwritten agreement that they will do the same for the next family,” Keenan said.

Greg Podgorny of Paonia — an ALS patient Dan met through the Grand Junction ALS support group — is now using the van. Before he died, Dan told his brother he wanted Podgorny to be the next to have the van. Podgorny and the van will be at the yard sale at Palisade High School today.

The Podgorny family and a committee consisting of the Keenan family, along with other contributing members to the Keenan Van Mobility Fund, will decide who will be the next recipient of the van.

Direct donations and other event listings are at http://www.keenanvan.com.


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