The white Honda Odyssey sitting in Mike and Brenda Greene's driveway is the product of a long and emotional journey.
Their daughter, Macie, 9, has Retts syndrome, a neurological disease that affects girls almost exclusively. Macie can't talk or feed herself. She has scoliosis, kidney stones, digestive problems and, at times, severe anxiety.
But none of that has kept Macie from growing, and as she has grown it has become increasingly difficult for her parents to pick her up and get her into her car seat or wheelchair.
In March the family entered a contest sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. The grand prize was a fully outfitted handicapped accessible van. Typically those vans cost $50,000 to $70,000, far more than the Greenes could afford.
Macie's page on the contest website had racked up more than 25,000 votes. Their story was chronicled on local television stations and in The Oklahoman on April 3.
They thought they had a good shot at winning the contest, but it turns out they didn't have to. A couple in the Oklahoma City area read their story and decided to step forward and buy them a van.
“She told me her name and she said she read the article in the paper today, and she said she and her husband wanted to buy us a van,” Brenda Greene said. “She said, ‘We don't want you to have to wait for the contest.'”
Brenda Greene couldn't believe what she was hearing.
“I couldn't say anything to her, I was so full of emotion,” she said. “I finally was able to ask her if she was serious. She was asking me what color we wanted, and I was just so stunned it was hard to answer her.”
The couple asked not to be identified publicly, but the two families met for the first time Monday in Guthrie. Faces were put to names and voices. There were hugs and a few tears.
“They're a tremendous couple,” Mike Greene said. “I got the impression they were as excited about it as we were.”
People at their best
Mike Greene is an Oklahoma City police officer who often sees people at their worst. The gift of the van has lifted his spirits.
It also has affected others. Macie's Facebook page has more than 3,000 likes, and when the news of the van was announced, hundreds posted celebratory messages.
“To know there was another couple out there that lives in this city that could go off and buy a van for us that was needed so badly has been an inspiration to us and so many other people,” Mike Greene said.
The Greenes are encouraging those who voted for Macie to choose someone else in the contest and vote for them. The contest ends May 10, and three vans will be given away.
“I think we had a good shot to win,” Brenda Greene said. “Now, with this gift to us, this couple may have helped someone else win.”
Monday, the family went to dinner at Johnny Carino's, and for once it wasn't a full production. Instead of having to be broken down into pieces, Macie's wheelchair rolls easily into the van by way of a motorized ramp.
Besides making their daily life easier, the van opens up possibilities for the Greenes to spend more time together as a family.
“Going on vacations for us is pretty complicated,” Brenda Greene said. “Flying is nearly impossible. For us, traveling is by car.”
The experience has allowed the Greenes to be more open about their daughter's condition and what it is like to parent a daughter with special needs. Both said the scariest part of entering the contest was exposing their lives to strangers. Now they're glad they did.