Heroic grandfather’s life changes after receiving electric wheelchair

Local News

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A Bloomington man received plenitude of attention on social media after risking his life to save his great-grandson.

69-year-old Gary White said family is all he has and that he would do anything for them. This proved true after he jumped into Miller Park Lake during a family fishing trip, to rescue one of his grandchildren who fell in on accident.

“I just was stunned at first and then after he went down, I said no matter what happens I have to jump in and get him because I can’t look at him in a coffin,” White said.

He rescued his grandchild, unlike the average person. White is disabled and used all his strength the hop out of his standard wheelchair and into the water.

“…In a minute, I would jump in there for any of my family, even if the house was on fire. I would go back in because I can’t live without them,” White said. “I pray to the lord at night that nothing happens to my family because I’m not strong enough.”

After jumping in he was able to hold his great-grandson up out of the water. The child was unharmed, but White was injured in the process.

White’s legs were scraped and bruised and he needed assistance from a local bystander and medical aid to get out of the lake. This comes after years of dealing with other health problems like degenerative back disease, neuropathy, and heart troubles.

Now, he struggles even more to move around. He transitions from two black canes to his standard wheelchair.

Several people consider him a hero and one of them helped make his life a little easier.

“I didn’t want to see that guy that would do that for his grandkid have to push that wheelchair around by himself all the time,” Duke Babb of Bloomington said. “That’s hard on your arms and your back and he has health problems like I do. So hopefully, it’s gonna change his life.”

Babb found White’s story on social media and instantly took action. He said he can relate the issues he’s having and referred white to his saving grace.

Vietnam Veteran, Don Yarbrough, is also disabled. He created an organization called Veterans Helping Veterans, to help others who have served our country.

He collects old wheelchairs and miscellaneous parts, then uses them to create refurbished versions that can be regifted to those in need for free. So far, he’s given out over 200 wheelchairs.

However, veterans are not the only people he helps.

Babb told Yarbrough about White Heroic act and mentioned his current condition. Without hesitation, Yarbrough said he would help him.

Yarbrough surprised White at his home in Bloomington.

White new Yarbrough was coming to do an evaluation, but had no clue he would be coming with a wheelchair for him the same day.

“This is great, this is going to bring a lot of joy to your life,” Yarbrough said.

White was both overwhelmed and happy.

“I am so thankful that he [did] that, so thankful that he loves people enough that he would do something like that,” White said.

Yarbrough spoke with White following the surprise; he said White is loving his electric wheelchair.

Yarbrough charges no fee for wheelchairs, but he does accept any old parts that can help him continue his work.

If you are interested in donating parts or need help, you can reach Don Yarbrough at (309)-689-0449 or on his cell at (309)-361-0637.

You can find out more about this organization on the Veterans Helping Veterans Facebook page.

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