VOTE FOR HAILEE: Family hoping online campaign turns into new van for daughter with CP

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Haillee Dufresne

CORNWALL, Ontario - Chantal O'Byrne can recite the story of her daughter's battle with cerebral palsy by rote - and she's hoping the message isn't lost on the public.

O'Bryne's daughter Hailee Dufresne was born with cerebral palsy and has been confined to a wheelchair her entire life.

Hailee's has defied the odds on more than one occasion, progressing to the point where she can speak full sentences, walk a short distance and interact with her family despite a prognosis that suggested she would do none of those things.

But day-to-day things like getting her in and out of the family van are still a challenge. Hailee is now 17, and no longer a little girl.

And her parents aren't as young as they used to be either.

"She's getting a lot bigger now," said O'Bryne. "It's getting a little awkward."

So when O'Byrne learned of an international competition that is awarding three lucky families in North America a new "adapted" van to help people with disability move around, she filed an application.

Now Hailee's story is live on the Internet, a part of National Mobility Awareness Month, and the family is looking for people to vote in her favour.

"We already have a van, but it's not adapted and it's nine years old," said O'Byrne. "We have to help her get in and out."

Hailee has become an inspiration to other families who have a member grappling with CP.

At the age of nine months a neurologist told the that she would never sit, crawl, walk, or talk effectively.

"Now she can do all of those things," said O'Byrne. "When we go see the neurologist he always asks us 'What is she doing now that she wasn't doing before?'"

But her hill is still a tough one to climb.

Hailee interacts with people on the same level as a three-to-six year old, and has grappled with multiple seizures, asthma, is glucose intolerant, has a feeding tub, scoliosis and takes choking spells.

Because of these health problems the family travels an average of 15 times a year to medical appointments in Ottawa.

"Receiving a new adapted van would help us get her back and forth to her appointments," O'Bryne said in her online plea. "Because of all the lifting to put Hailee in and out of the van and her wheelchair, both myself and husband are now dealing with back problems and pain."

To vote for Hailee, check out the link here and register to cast your vote. The competition closes May 9 and results will be released May 30. You can vote once a day once you have registered.

Geographic location: Ontario

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