April showers bring May flowers – or for Margaret Moore ‘19, a brand new wheelchair. On Friday, March 31, Moore, who has cerebral palsy, arrived at the Barone Campus Center at 10:30 a.m. with the idea that she was meeting with attorneys Robert Berchem ‘62 and Bryan LeClerc ‘84, Fairfield alumni and partners in the law firm Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C, to discuss the logistics of a new wheelchair. What Moore didn’t realize was that the chair had already arrived on campus.
Minutes after entering the Barone Campus Center, Moore noticed the blaring sirens of the Department of Public Safety vans which drove up to the lower level doors. Moore, her mother, Anne and a crowd of people who came to see Moore’s surprise all walked outside in the pouring rain to see the new chair.
“It’s really hard to surprise me, but I had no idea and I was so happy,” said Moore. “My mom said I had to come to the BCC for a meeting and I got here and they said that they had something to show me outside. I got outside and that’s when the police escort arrived with the chair.”
Moore’s smile spread across her face and stayed there for the rest of the morning as she admired her new Permobil F5 VS custom made chair with pink embellishments. With a high speed of 7.5 miles per hour, Moore will be seen confidently zipping around campus.
Fairfield’s DPS spearheaded a campaign earlier in the year to raise funds for Moore’s new chair.
Sophomore Libby Cimei commented, “I think it’s awesome and great how DPS and the entire school was able to raise enough money for Meg to get a new wheelchair because it makes it easier for her to get around and enjoy campus as much as possible.”
Sergeant Robert Didato explained that some of the Public Safety officers had been assisting Moore with minor actions, such as getting in and out of her room, and they noticed that her chair had tape around it, some screws stuck out of it and the head rest was starting to fall off.
“Meg’s a great kid, she has a wonderful sense of humor and has made relationships with some of our officers as we see her so often,” said Didato. “A bunch of the guys just got together and said, ‘let’s start a campaign,’ and that’s exactly what they did.”
On Feb. 5, known as Super Bowl Sunday this year, DPS held a fundraiser for students to watch the Super Bowl in the Lower Level of the BCC and donate money toward Moore’s chair. This event brought in approximately $5,800 and was combined with another $8,000 from a Go Fund Me page for Moore. However, with the chair listed at $60,000, even these numbers only put a dent in the high cost.
That’s where attorneys Robert Berchem and Bryan LeClerc came into play. “We got to know Meg from basketball games,” said LeClerc. “My law partner and I had been to many games where Meg plays in the pep band. One of the security officers at the arena invited us to a Super Bowl party this year and told us that if we could come that would be great because they were trying to raise money because Meg needed a chair.”
The two men negotiated with the insurance and manufacturing companies to ensure Moore received the best deal as they worked for her pro bono throughout the process. After marking the price down to $40,000, settlements were finalized and it was time for Moore to receive her chair.
A common theme that has taken precedent during this campaign is the willingness of the Fairfield community to come together and help Moore.
Sophomore Emily Patchell commented on the aspect of the university coming together.
“I think it shows that once the Fairfield community has a goal, then they can definitely come together and make it happen,” said Patchell.
Resident assistant Aimee Donohue ‘17, who has gotten to know Moore through the Service for Justice Residential College and through the Accessibility Office, where Donohue was an intern, commented on how amazing it was to see the Fairfield community come together and provide Moore and her family with an overwhelming amount of support.
“Meg’s new chair has provided her with the opportunity to have the same things that everyone wants when they come to college, a sense of freedom and independence,” said Donohue. “Meg is such a positive and amazing person and it’s been such a pleasure getting to know her throughout the last two years. I am so happy that this new chair will provide her with the ability to continue to leave her lasting impression on Fairfield University.”
On Wednesday April 4, Moore is allowing students to drive her old wheelchair as a part of the Project Yes You Can meeting in Campus Ministry. Both members and non-members are welcome to take it for a spin.