Community restores mobility for disabled student

Nic Antaya/The Herald
Justyn Moffatt, 15, of Hillham, jokes around with his father, Ray Moffatt of French Lick, and grandfather, Gary Moffatt of Hillham, not pictured, at his home on Friday. Justyn has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and received a van installed with a ramp on Dec. 3 from the funds raised by Nicholson Valley Christian Church.


DUBOIS — A community saw its labor come to fruition last month when Justyn Moffatt, 15, and his grandfather, Gary, of Hillham, received a wheelchair van to help Justyn get around town.

In May, the Hillham and Dubois communities rallied to raise money to help the Moffatts get the van. Justyn, then an eighth-grader at Dubois Middle School, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy —  a disease that causes progressive muscle weakness — and struggled to travel outside his home due to his need for a wheelchair.

Seeing the Moffatts’ need, Dubois Middle School Principal Ryan Case, school special education teacher Audrey Lichlyter and Justyn’s bus driver, Tony Smock, stepped in to plan a benefit for the family at Smock’s church, Nicholson Valley Christian Church in Dubois. Justyn’s classmates also started a GoFundMe page to help.

On Nov. 29, Justyn and Gary received the van at Northeast Dubois High School, where Justyn is now a freshman. NDHS Principal Tina Fawkes let Justyn off school early that day to take the van on its inaugural ride.

“I appreciate all the help,” Justyn said.

Justyn likely was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but was able to get around on his own until a few years ago when the disease took its toll. When he started at Dubois Middle School in fifth grade, he could walk the halls on his own. By the time he was finishing his final year at the middle school last year, however, he was mostly confined to his electric wheelchair.

Justyn can still walk short distances, but he spends most of his time at home watching TV and playing cards with Gary or playing video games. The latter is his favorite hobby, though he said he can’t pick a favorite video game. He’s played too many. The two men are self-proclaimed homebodies, but they plan to use the van soon to venture out for Christmas shopping.

Purchasing the van was a top priority for Gary, who raised Justyn with his late wife, Carol. Gary proudly showed off the shiny black van at his home in Hillham last week, even pointing out the chrome hubcaps.

“It’s more than I expected,” he said, noting his gratitude to the community.

Raising money for the van wasn’t the first time the community came together to help the Moffatts. A few years ago, students and staff at DMS raised money for the materials to build a ramp that allows Justyn to get his wheelchair in and out of the house. Representatives from the church built the ramp.

Despite his disease, Justyn stays positive and doesn’t use his disability as an excuse, Gary said. In middle school, Justyn joined Beta Club and played percussion in the school band. Now, as a high school student, Justyn’s looking for some new activities.

“He’s a good boy,” Gary said. “He really is.”

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