New Milford nonprofit aims to uplift those with mobility challenges
NEW MILFORD — A new nonprofit organization, Wheels for Wheels, is officially rolling.
The organization, which received its nonprofit status this spring, focuses on empowering those with mobility challenges and educating the community at large about how to be more inclusive to those with mobility challenges.
“I want Wheels for Wheels to be something people want to be involved in because it gives back,” said the organization’s founder and director, Sean Quigg, 26.
Individuals who need wheelchairs, financial assistance for accessibility modifications to their home, resource assistance, mobile/smart devices and technology, help for accessibility modifications for vehicles and more can find support through Wheels for Wheels.
Giving comes by “serving, uplifting and mobilizing the disabled community through advocacy, education and realized successes that foster compassion and advance accessibility,” according to the Wheels for Wheels missions statement.
The organization will raise funds for its mission at a car show Sept. 5 from noon to 4 p.m. at The Bleachery at 143 West St. The event had been planned for May but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I hadn’t been fully exposed to the challenges of those living with disabilities until I met Sean,” said Jeannette Hicks, the board’s vice chair. “It opened my eyes to the fact there’s a need to help support and ensure that everyone has equal access to have a safe, healthy and happy life.”
The organization’s mission is familiar to Quigg. He was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness due to the alterations of the dystrophin protein that helps keep muscle cells intact.
Cooking a meal, getting dressed by himself or giving a high five to a friend isn’t possible. Family and aides help with tasks. He has a special wheelchair to get around, and a wheelchair accessible van so he can travel.
Quigg’s spirit and motivation to live life to the fullest and help others has long been his focus. He doesn’t let physical limitations get in the way and has long been an advocate for those with mobility challenges.
His interest in cars stems from his childhood when he visited the racetrack nearly every week. Both his father and grandfather drag raced as well.
The track “was like my second home,” Quigg said.
Pairing his passions — helping those with disabilities and cars — made sense for the New Milford High School graduate, who had wanted to establish a nonprofit organization for a decade.
“I have known Sean for several years and am very impressed by his energy and vision and desire to help others who are handicapped get out of their homes and live their lives to the fullest,” said Kathy Castagnetta, Wheels for Wheels secretary.
Quigg emphasized his desire to educate the community, including local businesses, on how to increase accessibility in public spaces.
He suggested developing tools and resources to help businesses adapt their spaces and entries so they can become handicap accessible.
“If a restaurant has a little 6-inch step up, someone in a wheelchair can’t get in easily,” he said. “But a ramp could make all the difference.”
Hicks said there are “small changes — like a ramp or handrail — we can make that will be huge changes for many.”
“My vision is way beyond our local community, too,” Quigg added.
Since 20016, Quigg and a group of friends have coordinated a Wheels for Wheels car show. Funds raised at the event have been donated to the JETT Foundation, which supports those affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders.
With the nonprofit in place, the organization will now explore ways to directly help those in need.
Hicks said the organization’s mission has three components: Personal, community and automotive solutions.
The first year or two will focus on building funds and providing personal and community solutions for those in need. That might include the installation of handrails in a home or a ramp at a local business, and reaching out into the community to offer resources and education.
The long-term goal, maybe by year three, Hicks said, is to help someone with an automobile or wheelchair lift.
“Long term, we really want to provide a transformative solution to people who need one,” Hicks said.
Castagnetta said being part of the community and helping others attracted her to the organization.
“I love New Milford and saw this as an opportunity to be involved in our community in a new way,” Castagnetta said of the invitation to join the board. “Sean motivates me to be a better person. I was very honored to be asked to join the WFW board.”
Quigg has long been an advocate of the mobility community. In 2011, he created Spaghetti Arms as a way to educate people about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Quigg and his friends traveled around the country with the Warped Tour, the largest traveling rock music festival, and spread the word about Duchenne.
Funds raised through Spaghetti Arms’ efforts were donated to Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.
Quigg said planning events has “always been (his) thing.” The promotional aspect of events is part of his wheelhouse.
“It’s amazing what he’s overcome,” said Quigg’s father, Tom. “More and more people get involved.”
Cars, trucks and bikes are welcome at the Sept. 5 event at the Bleachery, with awards to be presented for Best of Show, important/JDM, Euro, stance, domestic, muscle, classic, 4x4, exotic, racecar, club participation and motorcycle.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization’s event plan was approved by the local health department and will follow CDC guidelines.
Exhibitors are asked to park 6 to 8 feet part, and all guests are asked to adhere to social distancing measures and wear masks. Hand sanitizer will be at every booth.
In addition, registration for both exhibitors and spectators is suggested to avoid one-on-one interaction at the gates.
“I haven’t heard anyone uninterested that I’ve spoken to,” Quigg said of interest in the Wheels event. “People are looking forward to it.”
There is a $20 suggested donation for both exhibitors and spectators.
In addition to vehicles on display, vendor booths and food will be offered.
Taco Bachi of Brookfield, John’s Hot Dogs and Cookie Cloud 9 will provide food on site.
The on-site Dyno, which has been at the event in the past, will not be present due to COVID this year.
Robert Picarelli of Robert’s Automotive, who has known Quigg since he was a child, said he’s been supportive of Quigg’s car shows over the years and is proud of the establishment of the nonprofit.
“It’s great somebody local is that passionate about the disease and (mobility challenges),” Picarelli said. “It’s for a great cause. ... He’s using his disability and the disease to spread awareness and raise money for research and to help others. He’s a fighter. He doesn’t give up or give in. He doesn’t quit.”
For more information about Wheels, or to register for the car show, visit www.wheelsforwheels.com.