Mariah Scott’s smile got brighter as Saturday went on.
Every friend or community member who stopped to chat or give her a hug at Flatwoods City Park during the Miles for Mariah event was rewarded with that mega-watt smile.
The 22-year-old was born with no arms or legs, a rare disorder called tetra-amelia, but it has never slowed her down or stopped her from accomplishing her dreams. With a little help from her friends and the community, she is poised to reach another one: owning her own car.
Scott needs a special van, which will be equipped with computerized controls and other special instruments, to drive herself to college classes and eventually to work. She is seeking a bachelor’s degree in education at Morehead State University and plans to teach special education.
On Saturday, dozens turned out to help her raise the $32,000 needed to purchase the van and participate in a festival celebrating the woman who has inspired a community.
“We just want to help her have more independence,” said life-long friend and event organizer Amy Freeman. “It will just let her do what she does.”
At midday, the event was on track to raise the funds, thanks in part to an offer from Fannin Automotive. The company announced it would donate up to $10,000 in matching funds for every $2,500 raised at the event.
“People have been so generous,” said Cindy Dean, another friend and event organizer.
Scott said she was humbled by the outpouring.
“It makes me feel really good that so many people care about me and are willing to support me to help achieve my goal of being able to drive,” she said. “It is super, super close now; I can’t wait,” she said, admitting excitement about the prospect of being able to drive.
“Seeing everyone do all this to help me, I appreciate it so much. I just can’t thank people enough for everything they have done,” Scott said.
Behind her a new, black Toyota van twinkled in the sun. The automobile will need approximately $100,000 in modifications before Scott, who passed her driving test at 18, can get behind the wheel. Once it is purchased, the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation will provide the work.
“She has been such a positive influence for people,” said Erica Jones of Wurtland, who attended with her daughter, Morgan, 6. “I’ve known her all her life.”
“It’s wonderful to see the community supporting and celebrating Mariah,” said Scott’s cousin, John Callihan of Louisville, who was among the dozens of volunteers helping with the fundraiser.
“In America, having a license and being able to drive is so much a part of the freedom and ability to do what you want to do, and it will just allow her to do so much more. Mariah sees no boundaries and if there is a way to help her fulfill her dreams, I know she is going to be such a blessing to other folks.”
“It’s been a complete obstacle her whole life, but at the same time it’s been a life of achievement,” said Dewayne Yates of Columbus, Ohio, who has been friends with Scott since childhood. “She has overcome everything that has been put in her way, and this is just one more thing on the way to being her own person, which she is.”
To donate to Miles for Mariah, send checks to the Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital Foundation, 1000 St. Christopher Drive, Ashland, KY 41101. Mariah Scott should be placed in the memo line.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.