FORT KENT, Maine — A little more than three months ago, the notion of a new car and driving seemed like impossible dreams to Fort Kent resident Kevin Pelletier.
The self-described auto and NASCAR buff was leaving a local diner on Sept. 20 when he stepped into the path of and was struck by a moving garbage truck.
As a result of the accident Pelletier’s left leg was amputated at the hip and he has spent months in rehabilitation in Bangor and Fort Kent.
But through the surgeries, the hospital stays and the physical therapy, Pelletier never lost two things — his trademark good humor and his dream of owning a new car.
And not just any car, but a metallic silver Chevy Malibu with black leather interior.
“We decided to help raise the money to help him get that car,” said Ken Marquis, sales representative at Valley Motors in Fort Kent. “This is his dream car and we want to make it happen.”
So Marquis, with the full support of Valley Motors management, began a communitywide fundraising campaign that so far has collected $7,050 toward the car’s $25,000 sticker price.
Just before Christmas, the campaign spread outside the area with the start of an online fundraising effort at Giveforward.com.
The plan, Marquis said, is to order the car in time for Pelletier to have the keys in hand this February.
“Whatever money is not raised toward the final price does not matter,” Marquis said. “Acadia Federal Credit Union has offered to loan Kevin the balance of the cost interest-free for the life of the loan.”
And Pelletier is ready.
“I had to go for another driver’s test on doctor’s orders,” he said recently from the Pleasant Street home he shares with his parents, Don and Hernelle Pelletier. “I passed and now have a restricted license.”
For example, Pelletier is not allowed to operate a vehicle with a foot-activated emergency brake. As luck and engineering would have it, the Malibu comes equipped with a hand-activated emergency brake.
Pelletier, who has full use of his right leg, said no modifications of the vehicle would be required for him to drive it.
Marquis credits fellow Valley Motors employee and Kevin Pelletier’s good friend Jeff Pelletier with sparking the fundraising effort.
“They are both real NASCAR fans,” Marquis said. “When Kevin was in rehab, Jeff brought him a book on [Chevrolet] Malibus and Kevin told him, ‘One day, I would like to have one,’ so Jeff took right to that.”
Thanks to a recent gift from a friend, Kevin Pelletier already is decked out with a black cowboy hat in the style of his favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt.
The Malibu, Kevin Pelletier said, is the perfect car for him since the driver’s side seat is the right height for him to access from his wheelchair.
In addition to the wheelchair, Kevin Pelletier is working on his upper body strength in using crutches to get around and has pretty much abandoned the idea of getting a prosthesis.
“Because they took out my hip joint, an artificial leg may be more work than it’s worth,” he said. “I can get around OK using my crutches.”
His parents say their son’s spirits have never faltered since the September accident.
“I was not sure how he’d take the news he’d lost his leg,” Don Pelletier said. “We did not know how to tell him, but when he woke up [after surgery] he told us he had expected it to happen.”
The knowledge that community members and even complete strangers have stepped up to make his son’s dream come true has helped the family cope with the accident’s aftermath, Don Pelletier said.
“You have to have something like this happen to show how many people really care,” he said.
“I guess I’m kind of popular,” Kevin Pelletier added with a grin.
Donations can be made to The Car for Kevin project directly at Valley Motors at 82 West Main St. in Fort Kent or online at www.giveforward.com by typing in “Kevin Pelletier” in the “find funrdaiser” box.