Those close to Josh Burt know him as a smiling, caring and helpful young man.
Now, they want to give back to him.
Gene and Lyn Langstaff started the Josh Burt Mobility Fund last month to raise money to purchase a new vehicle for Burt and outfit it with specialized mobility tools to help him get around every day.
Burt, 19, was born with spina bifida — a birth defect that affects a baby’s spinal column development in the womb — and he has had to use a wheelchair all his life due to paralysis in his legs. He’s a 2017 graduate of Whitefish High School and is active on the local Mad Dogs wheelchair basketball team.
Lyn said she’s known Burt for a few years and she wanted to help him with the mobility issues he faces. She said Burt is considering a career in counseling and needs a way to get around to pursue that goal.
“He’s very compassionate, he’s very kind, he’s always looking to be inclusive with others and really making sure nobody is excluded,” she told the Pilot.
“I told my husband, ‘I want us to do something for him.’ He’s always giving, he gives to his friends all the time. This is an opportunity to give back to him. I know he wants to be a counselor someday, but it boils back to the mobility issue.”
The Langstaffs hope to raise $80,000 to purchase a new half-ton Chevrolet pickup truck for Burt, specially equipped as a mobility solution vehicle to put him in the driver’s seat and give him more independence.
Currently Burt relies on rides from his family and friends to get to and from his work at Safeway and other locations.
“Whenever you outfit a vehicle with specialized mobility tools, they stay with that vehicle for life. I know we could probably find a pickup that has 90 to 100,000 miles on it, but we want to get him something that’s going to last him a long time, so he can go and pursue his dreams,” Lyn said. “[We’re looking for] pretty much a stripped down vehicle, but there are some things that he needs being a wheelchair user. The fancy features will be heated side mirrors, so he doesn’t have to scrape the windows during the winter, Bluetooth voice activated controls because his hands are doing gas, brake and steering and remote start.”
The modifications for the vehicle are expected to run $20,000 to $30,000 in addition to the cost of the vehicle, Gene explained.
Donations are being taken through a GoFundMe.com and the Langstaffs have also opened a specific savings fund at Whitefish Credit Union for those who wish to donate, but would like to do so through a local entity.
As of Monday, the donations to the GoFundMe page totaled almost $7,000.
The Langstaffs hope to have enough money raised to surprise Burt during a party on Sept. 15, which he thinks will be a birthday party for Gene.
“We’re just going to have a really fun night of just celebrating Josh, and I hope the whole community turns out,” Lyn said. “It’s still a surprise. Josh knows something is going on in the community, but he doesn’t know what. I would love to blow him out of the water.”
That celebration is planned for the Assembly of God Church in Whitefish, and a time will be announced on the GoFundMe page. Any and everyone is welcome to attend.
For more information, visit www.gofundme.com/josh-b-mobility.