Three-year-old Sarah Vander Meulen's bedroom looks more like a hospital than a nursery.
She was diagnosed with Pitt Hopkins Syndrome. It's an extremely rare genetic condition that among other things has left her immobile. Sarah had to undergo 13 surgeries. But looking at her smile, it's obvious she could care less about any of that.
As Sarah continues to grow, the family's Explorer is no longer cutting it. The little girl is dependent on a wheelchair. Now that she's getting bigger her family is in desperate need of a wheelchair-accessible van that is large enough to transport her and her two older brothers.
"I don't have a way to get her out without someone helping me. Even just getting her in the car for church is difficult. We have to take the wheelchair apart. It takes two of us to lift it in," said Sarah's mom, Cathy Vander Meulen.
Jerri Cottrell is the founder of Hands Across Arizona.
"I fell in love with Sarah not even having met her," said Cottrell.
The Vander Meulens are one of many families Cottrell's organization is working to help. Now Hands Across Arizona is a finalist in a contest put on by Thrivent Financial that could earn them the better part of $20,000.
"We will be awarded based on the percentage of votes we receive," said Cottrell.
Money that could go a long way in helping Sarah and other Arizona families in need.
Tuesday, September 16 2014 8:32 AM EDT2014-09-16 12:32:43 GMT
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