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Nonprofit donates van for students with disabilities in Wasatch County School District

The Wasatch County School District has a new accessible van to serve students of all abilities, thanks to a donation from a local nonprofit.

Nonprofit group Wasatch PEAK – Parents Empowering Abled Kids – works to get more resources to children with disabilities in the school district.

On Tuesday night, the group presented a new accessible van to the district. As parents, students and district leaders looked on, some of the children PEAK serves cut the ribbon and 12-year-old Ty Hendricks handed the van keys to the district’s director of special education.

Hendricks, who’s blind, is a 7th grader in the district. He said he takes part in a number of sports at the National Ability Center through the PEAK program.

“I get to do cycling and rock climbing and going on obstacle courses way high up!” he said.

The donation of the van has been several years in the making, according to Wasatch PEAK’s vice president, Erin Sabey. In the past, the district has rented buses to take children with disabilities to different events around the valley. Now PEAK has fundraised $40,000 so the district can use its own van instead.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of vans going in different places throughout town to create those opportunities for education, employment and recreation,” Sabey said.

Sabey has two children with Down syndrome in elementary school. She said she got involved with Wasatch PEAK to ensure they have access to the resources they need.

The nonprofit now serves more than 100 students every year. Besides activities at the National Ability Center, it also helps students get out into the community to learn life skills and, for students leaving high school, to explore job opportunities.

One mom who attended the ribbon-cutting, Anna Heimburger, said it’s important for kids with disabilities and their families to have resources in the Heber Valley. Her daughter Lucy is a high school sophomore who loves skiing and biking through PEAK.

“She also has rock-climbed with them, and she’s in a wheelchair – so it’s kind of unbelievable how they [the National Ability Center] do that,” she said. “Access is really important. And there’s different spots in, say, Salt Lake or Provo, but PEAK helps bring those things here to us locally.”

The group plans to continue fundraising and donate more vans in the coming years.