Tyler Jarreau left the Louisiana Sportsman Show Saturday with a big smile and an awesome ATV unlike any other on display at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.
It didn’t have a 600cc liquid-cooled engine or an on-demand four-wheel-drive system capable of towing 1,200 pounds. And it didn’t come with independent suspension, disc brakes or even cargo racks.
What it did provide, however, was something more valuable to Jarreau than all those popular features combined: a new sense of outdoor freedom.
The 19-year-old, who was diagnosed with spina bifida as a baby, was surprised Saturday morning with a camouflaged Action Trackchair donated by Gerard Smith, his wife Kelly, and all the folks at Kent Materials.
“He thought he was coming here to look at four-wheelers,” said Tyler’s mom, Dana Jarreau, who was in on the surprise along with Tyler’s dad, David. “We had looked into buying him one like this, but they were all out of our price range. With all the medical expenses and everything we have regularly — there’s always doctor visits and check ups and braces.
“He wanted one, but we just couldn’t swing it. This is awesome — a total blessing.”
The all-terrain wheelchair, which starts at about $10,600, features joystick controls, a 24-volt motor, a gun rack, tilt-angle seating, a zero-turn radius and the unique 6.5-inch-wide track system that enables it to travel through water, sand, mud and more. The chairs, which are also available in stand-up models, are distributed locally by Disabilities in Action.
For the Jarreaus, who live on a farm in Erwinville, the donation by Kent Materials is a real game-changer.
“We live in the country, and he stays outdoors. He loves to hunt,” David said. “It’s going to mean a lot to him, and also to me and his mom to take care of him. There’s a lot of things that he’s going to be able to do more on his own for his enjoyment.”
When Tyler was a child, he and his dad went on lots of hunts together, he said.
“When he was younger, I could throw him on my back and take off through the woods with him,” David said. “Now, he’s 200-plus pounds, and it’s not going to happen. I’m not getting any younger, either.
“It’s just tremendous what this is going to help him do.”
Smith, who did not know the Jarreaus and didn’t meet them until Saturday morning, said he was thankful for his company’s success, and simply wanted to give something back.
“We’re a statewide trucking company based in Port Allen,” Smith said. “This was a company effort, a group effort.
“We’ve been very busy, and we’ve been very blessed.”