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Brothers GW (left) and Ben Plumb are semifinalists
By CATHY DYSON
Orange County brothers GW and Ben Plumb are semifinalists in a national contest for a handicapped-accessible vehicle.
More than 1 million people submitted names of their local heroes and voted online during the first National Mobility Awareness Month.
Voting ended Sunday, and the Plumbs were among the top 10 percent of entries with the most votes.
Officials will review the stories of those nominated and pick three winners of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, valued at about $40,000 each.
"We're excited, but now it comes down to the most deserving," said Conway Faulconer of Faulconer Hardware, who nominated the brothers. "If they don't get it, that just means there's someone out there that needs it more."
GW and Ben, who are 26 and 24, respectively, have Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rapidly worsening degenerative disease.
Since the boys were born, their parents, Jane and George Plumb, have tried to provide as normal lives as possible for their sons. Both young men work--GW at the hardware store and Ben at Virginia Tractor--and continue to hunt and fish with adaptive wheelchairs.
The family pays all its medical bills without any government assistance, even though they probably qualify for various programs.
But they can't afford a van that's big enough for two wheelchairs. Jane Plumb carries both men in and out of the family vehicle as she takes them to work, doctor appointments or to other activities.
The Plumbs leave one electric wheelchair at home for each son and another at their workplaces.
At first, the family was reluctant to broadcast their story because they didn't want to be seen as a charity case. But Ben, especially, said he came to realize that people in the community just wanted to help, and he appreciates that.
More than 1,700 people with varying handicaps and of all ages were nominated as local heroes. The Plumbs were among the 170 with the most votes, even though they didn't get into the contest until two weeks after it started.
"Obviously, people did a lot of work to catch up," Jane Plumb said. "We're totally surprised and excited."
Another complication was that the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association website, which sponsored the contest, allowed only one vote from the same IEP address every 24 hours.
Many people who wanted to vote for the Plumbs don't have computers at home, Faulconer said. They tried to vote at work, school or the public library and often couldn't because computers on those networks shared the same IEP address and were limited to one vote per day.
"But it's all good," Faulconer said. "We're very grateful for everyone who voted."
The three winners will be notified in early June.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425