For a while now, Ivan Weber has been the highlight of Friday Mass services at the St. Michael Historic Church.
The St. Michael man, now in his familiar wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, taps away as the hymns bellow through the confines of the century-old building. And there’s always a grateful smile.
“I grew up in Pierz, which is just a German Catholic community quite like this one,” Weber said. “For me to be involved like this, it’s just great. I remember talking to Jenny [Haller] about it one day, and she thought the students would just love it. I know it’s just a ton of fun for me.”
Now, the community can reach out and help Weber the way he’s lifted spirits around St. Michael. Making his way around the area in a modified minivan, Ivan has often relied on the help of strangers to get in and out of his current vehicle.
That could change if he’s named the winner of the National Mobility Awareness Month campaign on MobilityAwareness.com.
The contest is the project of The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, a non-profit that works with corporate giants like Braun Ability, Chrysler and Toyota.
Weber was diagnosed with CP when he was just a toddler, after a couple of years of testing showed he was affected with some sort of disability.
“It took a bit to pinpoint what it was,” he said.
Know, however, doctors are still wondering if they have that diagnosis from so many years ago correct. Weber’s legs are deteriorating in a fashion more related to neuromuscular diseases. He’s working with Children’s Hospital doctors (despite his adult status, it has to be traced back to his original tests) for a re-diagnosis.
“It’s really gone down hill over the last 10 years,” he said. “There were days at Fingerhut, 20 years ago, where I could make it through work. Then I started crawling in on some days because my legs just couldn’t carry me.”
Regardless of that outcome, Weber continues to overcome obstacles. He’s very involved in his church, and loves to support his two children, a son and daughter, by marriage to his wife, Karen.
“Family keeps us going,” he said. “I love to go back to Pierz and visit my mother and brother when I can. This vehicle would make it so much easier. My brother is actually the school administrator at the same school we went to when we were kids. So it’s neat.”
Of the support he’s received so far, Weber said “It’s incredible. Win or lose, I’m thankful to my brother, George and Cummings Mobility in Albertville for really getting this going. It’s raised a lot of awareness, which is never a bad thing. The people here are very strong, and deep in faith. Through that, I’ve built a network of great friends.”
The winner of the national contest will be announced on May 10, after voting closes on May 9, Ivan will be a winner.
“The contest can turn out one way or another. I’ll love it either way. Marie’s getting married May 10, so it’s still going to be awesome. And it’s still going to be her day, even if I win a new van,” he said.