Christopher Durham is 45; he loves Stephan King and working on cars. Durham is a Facebook friend of mine (and seemingly everyone else around here). He grew up in Richmond and currently lives in Ohio. A hardworking man with an independent nature, Christopher has lived on his own since he was seventeen years old. He also lives with cerebral palsy.
It is extremely unusual for an individual diagnosed with cerebral palsy to live independently, let alone to live independently since such a young age. There are a few factors that contribute to Christopher’s living arrangement: his fierce spirit and intelligence, the support of his family, caregivers, and friends, and his mobility van.
Durham is in danger of losing his van and his ability to leave his house independently. Without his van grocery trips, doctor appointments, family gatherings, etc will be made exceedingly difficult. Without his van, Christopher is essentially home bound.
Why This Van?
Durham’s wheelchair is big. One wonderful thing about his van is that the passenger seat is missing, leaving plenty of room for (and easy access to) his folded-up chair. Christopher also loves his sturdy ramp, specifically built for his van. The ramp easily rolls in and out as well.
His van is a 2015 Town and Chrysler. It had 100 miles on the odometer in 2015 and less than 12,000 now. Christopher says the van has only been used to run errands, go to the hospital, and attend funerals.
But Why Is He Having Trouble Paying for It?
Christopher has already bought the van. The trouble is making the payments.
Despite being legally deaf, Durham loved (and exceeded at) his phone sales job at Cutco Knife. Several times he was the top salesman for the month. However, he was laid off. And now making the payments is understandably difficult. Durham found himself $1,800 behind.
There’s about $21,000 left to pay the van off and Christopher is scared.
Life Without the Van
Christopher remembers life before the van. He is no stranger to hardship. He lost his baby in 2000 and his wife in 2001, reporting he “drank like a fish for two weeks” before he “sobered up enough to take a good look at myself, be scared, and stop.” Even sober, he sank into depression under these staggering losses. The van he had at the time broke down and Christopher found himself home bound.
Depression is an isolating experience in and of itself. Compounded with the loss of his van, Durham was mired in isolation. He describes the experience as “depressing, worse than being in prison, almost.”
A Few Words from Christopher
Christopher wants to stress that this whole thing is a bit distressing to him. Setting up his crowd funding account, reaching out to me, telling his story so plainly. Christopher is accustomed to supporting himself. He lives frugally and likes it that way. He was raised to be independent, to never let his disability get in the way of what we wanted to do or where he needed to go. Asking for help is not in his nature.
Christopher is a smart, hard worker. “People think I don’t have a brain in my head when I talk until I hand them a business card,” he says, a bit irritated. If you’ve got a job to offer, he’d love to speak with you, too.
Please help Christopher Durham keep his van. Getting to the store or the doctor independently is something that many of us take for granted. Ditto with being able to leave our homes. For Christopher Durham, this can be a matter of life and death. Click here to help Christopher raise the money to pay off his van.
I interviewed Christopher on camera, scribbling notes as we chatted. Every time I looked up, he was smiling gently. A resting kind face.