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September 12. 2013 10:50PM

High Hopes

With minivan, road gets a little smoother for Merrimack family


Kamryn Batchelder, 9, and his sister Jade check out the van donated to their family by the High Hopes Foundation on Thursday. (Nancy Bean Foster)

MERRIMACK — Tears were in abundance at the High Hopes Foundation on Thursday, but they were the happy kind as the keys to a much-needed minivan were handed over to the Batchelder family.

Diane and Scott Batchelder of New Hampton have been raising their five grandchildren on and off for more than a decade in a small house that barely fits them all. When granddaughter Shayleigh, 7, developed a serious health problem, the family that was just making ends meet found themselves in crisis.

Shayleigh has a rare disease that puts pressure on her eyes and can cause blindness. Currently she has three spots on her brain that doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston are watching closely.

"She goes through a lot of spinal taps and has to be seen several times a month," said Diane. "She's starting to have a hard time reading, which is hard because reading is one of her favorite things."

The constant trips to the hospital have been difficult on the family, but what has made them worse was the condition of the family's minivan. A rusted body and an unreliable engine meant the vehicle couldn't be trusted, so Scott Batchelder kept a set of tools in the back just in case.

"I've had to do a lot of roadside repairs," he said. "It just kept breaking down, and it wasn't going to pass inspection."

Luckily, the family's social worker, Katy Gautsch, understood the dire straits the family was in and reached out to the High Hopes Foundation, a nonprofit organization that traditionally strives to make the dreams of seriously or chronically ill children come true. But in the Batchelder's case, getting the family reliable transportation was the goal.

Gautsch worked with High Hopes Director Rachel McMeen and with appeals to the public, they were able to secure a used van for the family. High Hopes then called on Bill Gurney, who owns auto repair shops in Nashua and Milford. Gurney took the van and fixed it up.

"The last thing this family should have to worry about is transportation," said Gurney. "So we fixed all the things that we knew were wrong with it to make sure it's going to be OK."

The Batchelder kids, ranging in age from 2 to 11, hopped right into the van and found surprises hiding in the back. But mostly they were just happy to have a comfortable new vehicle.

"It's going to make our family feel much better and make us feel like home," said Shayleigh.nfoster@newstote.com


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