Senior finally has new wheelchair after #ChairforIbra raises $32,000

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Senior finally has new wheelchair after #ChairforIbra raises $32,000

Senior Ibrahim Samia tries out his new wheelchair that he can control himself for the first time.

Senior Ibrahim Samia tries out his new wheelchair that he can control himself for the first time.

Matt Johnson

Senior Ibrahim Samia tries out his new wheelchair that he can control himself for the first time.

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Senior Ibrahim Samia tries out his new wheelchair that he can control himself for the first time.

Vijay Vanathayan and Suriya Sundaramurthi

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Cruising 25 miles per hour down the hallway, it’s like a mini Cadillac. But the best part about this ride is that the Watkins Mill High School community, teachers, and student body raised the money to pay for it.

After raising more than $32,000 in donations through GoFundMe, senior Ibrahim “Ibra” Samia finally has his brand new wheelchair.

The chair cost $25,000 and has features that allow Samia to be independent. It is fully-automatic and equipped with a head array (technology that helps him steer with just his head), a molded cushion that fits his body, and a reclining seat.

Matt Johnson

Junior Brandon Rodriguez was one of the students who initially helped get the word out about Samia’s story by contacting media outlets. “Personally, the experience has been good,” Rodriguez said. “It’s made me very happy to see that our school has gone this far to help our students.”

“It makes me very happy to see him going through the halls independently. Even though he has someone behind him, it’s just something nice to see that we accomplished,” Rodriguez added.

Samia’s story has now been recognized nationwide thanks to a GoFundMe promotional video that was released on March 1.  The video documents a day in the life of Samia, while biology teacher Matthew Johnson narrates–telling the story from the beginning.

It makes me very happy to see him going through the halls independently.”

— Brandon Rodriguez

In just a few weeks, the video received over 150,000 views on Facebook and even brought in a few extra donations. All of the recognition that Samia had gotten and the funds raised for him have completely exceeded people’s’ expectations. “I did not expect it,” Rodriguez added. “I was thinking we would get $9,000 or $10,000 out of it.”

“The GoFundMe people… did a big promotion because it was such a successful GoFundMe, and it was a very heartwarming story, but the follow up from the local news was just icing on the cake,” principal Carol Goddard said.

Last Friday, a pep rally was held to unveil Ibra’s new chair to the school. Two news crews, Fox 5 and NBC4’s Melissa Mollet came to the school as well.

“[My favorite part about the whole thing was] the spirit of everybody getting behind the whole raising money and caring about Ibra and…just treating him like he’s very special,” Goddard said.  “Because he is.”

After the prep rally, Koolway Sports, a Canadian company specializing in outerwear for people in wheelchairs, contacted Johnson about donating a custom coat and boots for Samia. “He’s never had shoes before,” Johnson said.  “He has really bad hammer toes, so they’re getting him soft-lined boots.”

“It was [a] meant-to-be kind of timing,” Johnson added.  “They came out and met me and talked about what they could do for him, so it was a really cool development.”

Senior Clarence McNeary was also one of the students that got the word out about Samia’s need for a new chair. “I just liked overall how the school and the community came together [and showed that] Watkins Mill supports its students,” McNeary said.  “And basically no matter their disability… or who they are or where they come from… we’re always there for each other to support.”

Goddard said that seeing Samia in his new wheelchair brought tears to her eyes.  “When I first saw him in it, when he was practicing, it wasn’t his yet, but just to see him navigate with his head it was incredible,” Goddard said.

It’s really him who’s helped me become a better person in my own life.”

— Matt Johnson

“When I first met him five years ago, I asked to be with him [because] he just seemed like a cool kid and I was interested in his disorder coming from my biomedical perspective that I’m passionate about, and I was like I really want to help him,” Johnson said. “But then now coming down like five, six years down the road, it’s really him who’s helped me become a better person in my own life learning to help others.”

“Just look at the world around you, and see that there’s more than just our own lives and our own little personal struggle that sometimes we get lost in,” Johnson added. 

Now that Samia has his new chair, he said that his favorite part about being independent is “just hanging out with my friends and being able to move around.”

“It feels good knowing that I was able to make a difference in someone’s life,” McNeary added.  “It feels good knowing that he can feel closer to normal and not have to struggle with everyday things that we all take for granted.”

 

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