22 March 2021 – Taking possession of a new mobility scooter meant Ronny Pitts went from being housebound for five years to being able to go where and when she wants without asking her family for help.
The 66-year-old Te Aroha resident bought an Invacare mobility scooter from Mobility Centre’s van salesman Gary Darkes after he helped her with an application to the Lottery Grants Board.
“He guided me through, checked the reference letters and I sent it off. Then about a month ago I got a letter back saying it had been approved. I was so excited that I straight away sent them a thank you letter and then rang Gary up,” said Ronny.
Within days Gary delivered the mobility scooter and took Ronny through a mobility scooter training session.
“I can’t believe the independence it has given me,” says Ronny.
“Before I became housebound, I was a teacher aide at a local school and was so involved in the community.
“I’ve gone through different stages of depression during the last few years. I’ve really had my moments.”
Ronny, who moved to Te Aroha from Auckland 33 years ago with husband Wayne, has lupus, a disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs.
“I could no longer walk across the road let alone into town. I became quite a recluse confined to my home.
“As soon as I got the scooter, I had no qualms about getting out there.”
Ronny and Wayne, who died seven years ago, were married 37 years, and had two children – a stillborn son in 1977 and 10 years later a daughter Julia, now Parore, who is married with four children. Ronny lives in a granny flat with the family in Te Aroha and has relied heavily on them for transport since her lupus gradually worsened.
“I can now go to church, to the doctors, to wherever I want. The first time I went uptown, for example, I didn’t get far because people kept stopping to talk to me. It was absolutely amazing. It made such a huge difference.”
She can even go up the road for weekday mass at St Joseph’s Catholic Church and meet her grandchildren at the neighbouring Catholic school.
“I’ve only just come back to the faith after years away and in recent years my faith has played a tremendous part in my life.”
Ronny, maiden name Felise, is from a large family and is the daughter of Samoan immigrants who settled on the North Shore. She herself was born in Auckland.
Contact with her community has always been important to her and that ability to engage easily with people means she wants to be the “go to” person in Te Aroha if others are struggling with their mobility scooters.
“I have heard of people who get a scooter and are too scared to ride it. I’m really lucky because Gary’s been wonderful with me.
“He’s a really nice guy and if there’s anything he doesn’t know about scooters, it’s not worth knowing. He’s guided me, helped me, and built up my confidence.
“Riding that mobility scooter is a breeze for me,” says Ronny.
Gary says he often gets contacted by people wanting to buy a mobility scooter but who are unable to afford the full price.
Because of his networks, he can identify whether they might qualify for a grant.
“They may be eligible to apply for grant funding like the Lotteries Grant Board which funds some people with mobility and communication related disabilities.”
Lottery Individuals with Disabilities will fund equipment to support individuals to contribute, participate in and connect with their communities.
For Lottery Individuals with Disabilities, a disability refers to a long-term (six months or longer) limiting condition that affects a person’s ability to participate in the community.
This can include vehicles, vehicle modifications, scooters, assistance dogs and other mobility equipment, that will enable better access to the community.
“Some service clubs, like the RSA, Lions or Rotary also have grants that are available. I keep up with this because I have so many clients who need that additional help,” says Gary.
“It changes people’s lives when they get their independence back. Ronny is a great example of someone whose whole outlook in life has changed – it’s given her a new lease of life.”
Mobility Centre is owned and operated by Life Unlimited Charitable Trust which offers health and disability information, advice, and equipment to allow people to live the life they choose.
There are four Mobility Centre stores in Hamilton, Tauranga, Hastings and Lower Hutt, an Online Store and three Retail Partners in Rotorua, Gisborne and on the Coromandel in Whitianga. In addition, Mobility Centre operates van sales operations in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Wellington.
Published Monday 22 March 2021