It has been long road for Nick Trail, Manchester Times sports writer, to get his driver’s license. Longer, in fact, than it took to earn his master’s degree from the University of Tennessee.
Nick, 28, was born with cerebral palsy, a disease that has made things most people take for granted, difficult if not impossible.
Like driving to the store.
“It affects my fine motor skills, my walking, my speech,” he said.
His condition was caused by a lack of oxygen reaching his brain during childbirth.
His first few months, Nick spent at Vanderbilt University Medical Center with a myriad of medical conditions.
In his teen years, while all of his friends were learning to drive, he was mostly stuck home, relying on others for his transportation.
Moving into his professional life, Nick found life difficult without transportation.
“I used the campus shuttle [while at school],” Nick said. “Other than that, I relied on the kindness of friends.
“It’s like a burden has been lifted. I really felt bad asking people to come pick me up. It’s nice to know if I need to go somewhere, I can just get in the car and go.
“I really don’t know what I would do without the Dusty Elam Foundation,” he said.
The foundation, started by the Elam family, following Dusty Elam’s death, donated hand controls, which cost about $2,000, allowing Nick to learn to drive and then paid for the initial evaluation that gave him the go-ahead for driver training.
“We tried to go through the state and through Vocational Rehab for 12 years,” explained Nick.
“We just kept getting the runaround.
“Finally, we got in touch with the [foundation] and asked if they’d be willing to help out.”
The foundation is a charity that focuses mainly on assisting disadvantaged and special needs children in the area.
“It’s just a group of folks around here – good, close friends who like to help out,” said Chris Elam, co-founder of the foundation and Dusty’s brother.
Chris, who works six days a week at John Roberts Toyota, is quick to turn the focus quietly back to those who need help.
“What’s nice is that people get together and volunteer to help out and raise money.”
It was in the wake of Dusty’s death due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in late March 2004 that the family created the foundation to help area children.
“He was going to school to be a special education teacher,” Chris said. “Instead of having flowers, we started a memorial fund.”
Organizers say that Dusty’s purpose in life was to make a difference in children’s lives. Those goals are being fulfilled “even after his death by his family.”
At first the fund raised a little money to be donated to local children. Then, on the one-year anniversary of Dusty’s death, the family decided to have a fundraiser to see how the charity would do.