Cindy Flavin, of Wiscasset, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy about 10 years ago, while in her 30s, and relies on a van with a lift to maintain her independence. In April, when she was about to make her last payment on her specially equipped van, she found out the van, which had more than 200,000 miles on the odometer, was not worth being fixed.
The news was devastating for Flavin. She could not afford a new van, and without a van, she would become house-bound. She said she prides herself on being a positive-thinking person, but the news really got her down, so she went to Facebook and posted a status update about her dilemma.
Her sister-in-law, Amy Borens, of Colorado, saw the Facebook post and created a GoFundMe page to help purchase a new van for $40,000 to $60,000. When her sister-in-law called to tell Flavin she had created a GoFundMe account, Flavin said, “I was surprised and told her that is for people that really are in need.”
“I just would never have thought of doing something like that,” she said. “But I am surely grateful.”
Two of Flavin’s classmates from the Brunswick High School Class of 1989, Sarah Au and Kim Edwards, promoted the GoFundMe page. Au and Edwards told donors of $30 or more that they would be entered into a contest to name the new van after their mother or someone close to them. The goal was to have Flavin in a new van by Mother’s Day, and that goal was met.
“The donations that came in were unbelievable,” Flavin said. “Many generous donations came in from my classmates from Brunswick High School that I have not seen for many years.”
The fundraiser even received donations from the children of classmates and a $200 gift from a friend of her late father, William Borens.
A classmate offered to match donations up to $1,000. Donations also came in from Australia, Canada, China, and France, from family members and from strangers, Flavin said.
The GoFundMe page raised about $17,000 to help Flavin purchase a new van.
“I was feeling so unworthy of this,” Flavin said. “Not just the donations that were made, but also the messages of encouragement and kindness, are something I will never forget.”
“It is hard to go from a person that was very active to being confined to a wheelchair. Yes, I am in a wheelchair, but there are people a lot worse off than me,” she said. “Be thankful for every little thing you can do, even going to the refrigerator to get yourself a drink. You never know when all of that will change.”
Flavin was grateful when she was able to purchase a 2014 Chrysler Town & Country van with a new lift. The new lift cost $5,000 and the remainder of the contributions were used as a down payment. With the down payment from the GoFundMe page, she was able to arrange a payment within her budget.
The new van is named “Momma C” after the mother of Andrea Burdick, of Brunswick, whose mother’s name is Chari.
Flavin has two children, a son, Tyler, a student at Principia College in Elsah, Ill., and a daughter, Emma, a fourth-grader. She said she is thankful for a loving, supportive husband. Her mother now lives with the family to help also. “I am a very lucky person,” she said.
Flavin is grateful to the Muscular Dystrophy Association for her wheelchair and her scooter. “When a donation is made to MDA, the money is used to help people like me,” she said.
Muscular dystrophy is a progressive disease that causes weakness, loss of muscle mass, and eventually the loss of the ability to walk. There is no cure for muscular dystrophy.
“I am thankful every day. I truly feel loved and very special to have received the response from so many people in giving me my independence,” Flavin said. “Without their support and the support of my family, I would not have the vehicle that gives me that independence. I do not have the words to express my gratitude and appreciation for this amazing support.”