Fund-Raiser To Buy Wheelchair For 5-Year-Old

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Spend a few minutes with 5-year-old Justice McNeeley and its easy to see why so many volunteers are lined up to help him.

He's engaging, witty and refuses to let the spinal muscular atrophy -- a form of muscular dystrophy -- slow him. Although he's confined to a wheelchair, Justice plays on the Diamondbacks T-ball team and is often seen riding horses around Pine and the Payson Event Center.

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Justice McNeeley may soon have a specialized wheelchair, called a Go-Bot, thanks to the efforts of his mom, Katie (right), and friends, Christine Burba and Anthon Elisarraris.

"I like horses. I like to ride," Justice said.

Justice's mother, Katie, her friend Christine Burba, and others in Pine are determined Justice will someday have a specialized wheelchair that they say will greatly improve his mobility.

Called a Go-Bot, manufacturer Innovative Products, Inc. says it "will allow him to explore the environment using upright, self-initiated mobility to experience a course of development more equal to his able-bodied peers.

"The Go-Bot may facilitate development in the areas of language, socialization, self-esteem, visual-motor and upper extremity function."

Justice's mother has tried with no success to obtain the Go-Bot through insurance and state aid.

"They say it is experimental so they won't help with it," she said.

At a price of about $8,500, the McNeeley's haven't been able to afford the Go-Bot.

That's where Justice's many friends and supporters come in.

Led by Burba and a host of volunteers, the Justice McNeeley Foundation has been set up to help buy the Go-Bot.

But the foundation won't end with the purchase of the new wheelchair. The volunteers' goal is to earn more than the $8,500 at an upcoming fund-raiser and retain the excess money in the foundation. As needs arise, it would be used to help other Pine residents.

"The money would stay here in the community," Burba said.

The benefit fund-raiser will be Aug. 28 at Sidewinders Saloon in Pine.

The events include a quad poker run (9 a.m. to 11 a.m), a silent auction (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), barbecue dinner (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), horseshoe tournament (1 p.m.) pool tournament (6 p.m.) and hourly raffle drawings.

The pool tournament will be a held in a blind couples draw format. Organizers promise great prizes for the winners of the tournaments and poker run.

Foundation volunteers are meeting each week at Sidewinders to plan and schedule what they anticipate will be a fun and profitable benefit.

Entry and dinner tickets priced at $10 are available at Sidewinders. An account also has been set up to help Justice at the Payson branch of the Bank of America.

Call (928) 476-6434 for more information.

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