When Aimee Gollihur and her husband, Geoffrey, take their kids to soccer practice or games, they often get asked, “How are the twins doing?” or “What is Drew up to?”
People who know the Gollihurs, of Hammonton, at a distance or only through other friends and relatives may not know that the twins are not actually twins, or that older brother Drew has a second sister often missing from the sidelines of his soccer games.
The youngest daughter of the Gollihur clan, Emily, who is a triplet, was born with a rare chromosomal disorder that resulted in severe physical, emotional and mental delays. Gollihur recently entered the National Mobility Awareness Month’s Local Heroes contest to win a wheelchair accessible vehicle so that Emily can join her parents and siblings on outings.
“I think when people have heard her story, they have always rallied to support us,” Aimee Gollihur said. “It’s unusual circumstances, but when they see Emily or meet her, people fall in love with her right away. She’s very loveable.”
The Local Heroes contest allows people with disabilities, caregivers or a person in need of a wheelchair accessible vehicle to submit an entry to win one of three vehicles. The public can vote for each entry online up until Tuesday.
Judges from the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, contest sponsor, then pick the winners from the top ten percent of people with the most votes. Winners will then be notified around June 20.
Gollihur gave birth to the triplets in 2007. She and her husband started to notice certain delays in Emily following the baby’s release from a hospital neonatal intensive care unit. They didn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary since they had genetic testing performed during the pregnancy and after.
Those test results were negative, but months after Emily's birth, physicians at Children’s Hospital of Phildelphia told the family they suspected a more rare genetic problem. Emily started to suffer from seizures and physicians finally diagnosed her with a chromosome disorder.
Emily is eight, like her brother and sister, but functions at an infant level. She cannot walk or eat by herself, has a multitude of other health issues and is legally blind.
That doesn’t stop her from enjoying music on the radio or from her parents, or making happy noises in the company of her family.
“She’s a really happy girl,” Gollihur said. “The van would be so amazing because right now, we have to lift her in and out of a car seat in the van and it’s uncomfortable for her. In fact, when we’re putting her in the car is one of the only times she does cry.”
A wheelchair accessible van would allow an easier transition for Emily, her parents and nurses when the family travels. Gollihur said they sometimes have to leave Emily with a nurse caregiver because the young girl becomes so upset during the whole process.
“It’s hard when you want to do something as family, but the whole family isn’t here,” Gollihur said. “There are so many deserving kids in this contest, it’s a long shot, but if not for anything else, our entry shows a little more about disability awareness and inclusion. Even that will be worth it.”
To see all entries in the Local Heroes contest, visit mobilityawarenessmonth.com.