GoFundMe effort a bright spot during pandemic

Ben Wimett raises over $17,000 for all-terrain wheelchair


BRANDON — For every troubling, unsettling news article reported during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a story of courage and sacrifice, of bravery, kindness and community.

Last week, Ben Wimett’s community showed its kindness and respect by helping him raise $17,819… in seven days through a GoFundMe campaign. The goal: an all-terrain wheelchair that will allow Wimett to pursue his love of hunting, fishing and the outdoors in general.

“A total of 275 individual donors ranging from retired para-educators to occupational therapists to businesses,” Wimett said, “and everybody showed up. Never in a million years did I think this would happen.”

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 also a passionate outdoorsman, but has found it harder and harder to access the woods, lakes and creeks he loves so much in recent years.

After posting a photo on Facebook of the 18-pound tom turkey he shot two weeks ago, his first turkey ever, Wimett mentioned he was researching all-terrain wheelchairs. They are expensive, between $13,000 and $17,000.

Ben Wimett, left, with his dad Dave after Ben bagged his first turkey ever two weeks ago. Wimett, 35, has cerebral palsy and started a Gofundme to raise money for an all-terrain wheelchair.
Photo submitted

On Friday, May 9, Wimett decided to start the campaign with the fundraising goal at $17,000. Within 12 hours over $4,700 was raised. By 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. On Saturday, May 16, donations surpassed the $17,000 goal. Wimett said donations are still coming in by mail.

It gets better.

Wimett chose 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.

Wimett said the company gave him a deep discount on the chair, which came in at 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 even better.

Wimett said if there is any money left in donations after that, he wants to create a nonprofit to raise money and purchase an Action Trackchair for someone else.

“It’s beneficial to me, but what I really enjoyed 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. Even when times are not so good, we know that people love us and this is a great community.”

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