Exeter Paralympian is now riding in style
Arlen, a recent Exeter High School graduate and 2012 Paralympics gold medalist, was the guest of honor during Thursday's open house at the Granite State headquarters of Ride-Away, a company specializing in wheelchair van conversions and other mobility vehicles.
Arlen's relationship with Ride-Away began last spring, when technicians at the Londonderry mobility van company outfitted her vehicle with hand controls and other technology to make it possible for the busy teenager to fully exercise her independence.
"This is a huge step for me," Arlen said. "It meant I was finally able to drive myself to school, to swim practices."
"It's pretty unfortunate, but what's meant to be will be," she said. "It's all part of a larger plan.
Although she plans to take a year off before starting college, Arlen said she has no plan to slow down.
She trains regularly to stay in shape, models, acts and does regular appearances at public events where she tries to remind others there's always a silver lining.
The pair met earlier this summer through mutual friends.
Callahan, a resident of Londonderry, said it wasn't just a lovely smile that drew him to Arlen.
Ride-Away general manager Ron Hoy said helping clients like Arlen makes for a rewarding career.
"She's a great kid with a great story to tell," Hoy said.
"Doctors don't always tell people about their options and navigating the financial aspects can pose further challenges," he said.
"Not everyone can be a driver, but we're all about customizing a unique plan to fit each individual according to their needs," Hoy said.
In Arlen's case, the Exeter teen picked out her new vehicle, a blue Honda CRV, and staff at Ride-Away were able to quickly customize it according to Arlen's measurements to create a vehicle Arlen can access from the rear hatch, climb inside, fold up her wheelchair and hop into the driver's seat. Ride-Away technicians then added the final finishing touches, including wheelchair straps in purple — Arlen's favorite color.
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