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York community helps Lowe's worker buy wheelchair

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

A lot of folks around the York area know of Chris Veseth.

Chris Veseth, of Spring Garden Township, greets customers at Lowe's Home Improvement in Springettsbury Township, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Veseth, born with cerebral palsey, has worked at the store for 17 years, recently teamed up with co-worker Dot Peters Caloia to set up a GoFundMe campaign for a new $8,000 wheelchair. The fundraiser has raised $27,485 in 26 days, which has far exceeded everyone's expectations. Dawn J. Sagert photo

They might not know his full name, but they certainly know him as the greeter at the Lowe's Home Improvement store in Springettsbury Township.

Veseth was born with cerebral palsy, but the 38-year-old does not dwell on the negatives in his life. His upbeat attitude has apparently left a lasting impression on many of the people he meets.

Chris Veseth, of Spring Garden Township, right, directs Rhonda Detzel, of Manchester Township, to find screen repair kits in aisle 52 at Lowe's Home Improvement in Springettsbury Township on  Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Veseth, who has worked with the company for 17 years, recently teamed up with co-worker Dot Peters Caloia to set up a GoFundMe campaign for a new $8,000 wheelchair. The fundraiser has raised $27,485 in 27 days, which has far exceeded everyone's expectations. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"I'm just happy to be there and happy to help out," he said, smiling. “I just try to live my life and have as much fun doing it as possible.”

His cheerful personality, despite his physical disability, has earned him the admiration of many fellow employees and  store customers.

“I’ve never had trouble talking to people,” Veseth said. “My mom always said to me and my twin sister, Jessica, that it was important — since we were both disabled — to be able to communicate with people and be able to talk to people, and that would allow us to be more accepted into the community.”

When Veseth recently needed some help to get a new wheelchair, the York community responded with an outpouring of generosity.

Veseth was both surprised and grateful.

GoFundMe: Seeking to raise funds to purchase a replacement for his deteriorating 3-year-old wheelchair, Veseth mentioned to one of his co-workers, Dot Caloia, that he would like to set up a web page to ask for donations. Having some experience with setting up a similar page herself, Caloia met with Veseth during a break at Lowe's. In just a few moments, they hashed out some details before she put up a page on the popular site GoFundMe.

The goal was set at a point that was just enough to pay for a new custom chair, manufactured by Mike Box in Norco, California.

"Chris is a wonderful guy who has spent his entire life in a wheelchair," Caloia wrote on the site, which went live on Aug. 24. "Chris is someone who will do whatever he can to help others, and now he needs our help to be able to afford a chair that will be strong and durable for all of his needs. The chair he has now is only a few years old, yet it has already broken once and is showing severe wear and tear. Please help Chris raise the funds he needs for a chair that will last."

From left, Chris Veseth, of Spring Garden Township, greets and directs customers Steve Leiphart, and Vickie Leiphart, both of York Township, at Lowe's Home Improvement in Springettsbury Township, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Veseth, who has worked with the company for 17 years, recently teamed up with co-worker Dot Peters Caloia to set up a gofundme campaign for a new $8000 wheelchair. The fundraiser has raised $27,485 in 26 days, which has far exceeded everyone's expectations. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Veseth didn't have any big ideas about the type of response he was about to encounter. He sought out help in the past, mainly through the Lowe's Employee Relief Fund. He didn't know if he would achieve his goal — $8,000 — and, if he did, how long it would take.

"I definitely did not expect anything like this whatsoever," said Veseth, whose primary source of income is through his employment at Lowe's.

Response: The overwhelming response to Veseth’s plight took off almost immediately. The $8,000 goal was reached before the night was over. As of Wednesday night, more than $27,400 had been donated by 696 individuals. That sum, which is more than three times the original goal, will not only allow Veseth to fly to California to be custom fitted for his new chair, it also will help do more than he anticipated.

"I just want to let everybody know that the extra money is going to help out my twin sister, Jessica, and to help with some renovations around the house," he said. "You know, with some ramps and stuff like that. And the rest of the money I'm going to put away in the bank for another wheelchair for the future."

The realization that his dream of getting a little help turned into something much bigger brought the York Suburban High School graduate to tears. While he's received help in the past, he never really thought about taking to the web to make his pitch.

"I think that what really took this off the ground was the use of social media," he said. "Without the internet, I don't think any of this would have happened.”

Veseth is looking forward to skateboarding with friends at a local skate park, something that his new chair will enable him to do.

"The first thing that would come to mind, if I was able-bodied, is ride a skateboard," he said. "I know I'd have a lot of fun with it. My friends have been skateboarding for 20-some years. And with this new chair that I'm getting, I'll be able to ride along with them."