One small town in South Carolina banded together to surprise one disabled student with a gift that will change his life.
Malik Brown is a 17-year-old senior at Batesburg-Leesville High School. His cerebral palsy confines him to a wheel chair, where he cannot speak but has a computer that allows him to communicate with others.
Malik is about to graduate high school and plans to attend Midland’s Technical College in the fall. However, there is one roadblock that Malik faces… transportation to and from college.
He currently relies on the school bus to transport him, but will have no way to get to his college classes after high school graduation because of his need for a specially-equipped vehicle to transport him to and from college.
Malik’s teacher, Kay Alford, approached the District of Special Services and asked Bill Harbert if he would help set up a “Go Fund Me” account on Facebook in order to raise money to help Malik get a handicapped-accessible van. Once the account was started, donations began to come in.
In February, Malik was given the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s Yes I Can Award in the area of Technology. The award is given in recognition of a child or young adult with a disability who has outstanding achievement in one or more of the following areas: Academics, Arts, Athletics, Community Service, Employment, Extracurricular Activities, Independent Living Skills, Self-Advocacy or Technology.
At the award presentation in Myrtle Beach, Batesburg-Leesville High School teacher Stephanie Sawyer again shared Malik’s story about needing transportation.
Mrs. Sawyer and Mrs. Alford then began to share Malik’s story with the Batesburg-Leesville community and an account was opened at First Citizen’s Bank called the “Malik College Fund.”
Donations began to roll in to the fund during the next few months. Over $4,000 was raised and the handicapped-accessible van was purchased from that money.
His grandmother, Debra Risinger, has been taking care of him his whole life. She was there Thursday, as the the van was given to Malik.
“I’ve lost my job, given up my college career, and experienced so many adversities. Today makes me feel like it’s worth it… it’s so worth it,” Debra said.
Not only did Malik receive the van, but taxes and insurance have been paid on the van for a year by donations that have been received.
Malik’s best friend, Hunter Routon, was emotional thinking about the gift.
“We started being friends in the 5th grade. He deserves this because he never allows his disability to get in the way of being a great person, and good student,” Hunter said.
Malik graduates May 29 in the top 3rd of his class.
Hunter says it was so hard to keep the secret from Malik these past few weeks.
Mrs. Alford found a used van that met Malik’s needs that was being sold. Mrs. Sawyer negotiated the price and with the help of a local business person’s generous contribution, it was purchased in early May for $3,000.
The van was checked out by technicians at Black’s Tire and was cleaned by Wilbur Johnson. All of this was done at no charge.
Theresa Taylor, Director of Transportation for Lexington Three, also checked out the lift mechanism to make sure it was in good working condition.
Debra was very thankful, saying, “You just don’t understand. We don’t have to worry about someone picking him up anymore. We can freely run errands. This is a huge blessing. Thank you so much.”
Donations are still be accepted to help Malik pay for gas, insurance, repairs and more. You may mail your donation to the “Malik College Fund” at First Citizens Bank Batesburg-Leesville, 129 N Pine Street, Batesburg-Leesville, SC 29006.