By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Although they received thousands of votes, Salem’s Pacheco family did not win a recent online contest they entered hoping to get a wheelchair-accessible van for their son Dominick.
The outpouring of support they received from the community, however, was overwhelming, said Laura Pacheco, Dominick’s mother.
“I never thought we’d get the response that we got,” she said. “We’re so grateful for all the love and support.”
Now the Pachecos — and their friends, family and supporters — have organized a fundraiser for this weekend to raise money to purchase a van that will accommodate Dominick’s wheelchair. The event Saturday at the Franco-American Club in Beverly will have music, food, silent auctions, raffles and door prizes.
Dominick suffered a brain injury at birth that left him severely disabled. He cannot speak, and he cannot sit or stand on his own. He’s very social, however, and loves being near people and out of the house. And that means Laura Pacheco has to lift her 14-year-old son, who now weighs close to 100 pounds, and his wheelchair in and out of the family minivan every time they go out.
With a price tag of $50,000 or more, however, a wheelchair-accessible van has been financially out of reach for the family.
The Pachecos were finalists in a contest this spring organized by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, with a prize of a new, wheelchair-accessible van.
“We were disappointed (Dominick didn’t win), but the people who won were deserving,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said they will use proceeds from this Saturday’s fundraiser to help buy a used, nine-passenger van and equip it with a wheelchair lift.
Theresa Silva, wife of Salem YMCA director Jason Silva, has set up a page for the Pachecos on gofundme.com, an online fundraising website. As of last week, close to 50 people had donated more than $2,500.
In addition to Dominick, Laura and Carlos Pacheco have three other sons, CJ, 9; Ramsey, 7; and Vincent, 6; and a 3-year-old foster child with autism.
The entire family will be at the fundraiser. There will be a DJ and a Spanish-American buffet, Laura Pacheco said. Attendees will be entered to win a door prize of $100 worth of scratch tickets.
Numerous local businesses have donated gift certificates, prizes and auction items.
Melanie McKinnon, founder of the Salem nonprofit It Starts With Me, hosted a pub crawl fundraiser for Dominick last week. Beth O’Grady of Salem’s Stephen O’Grady Foundation has also been “a huge help,” Pacheco said.
Laura and Carlos owned Salem Taxi before selling the business four years ago. They’ve lived in Salem since 1999 and previously lived in Peabody.
Laura grew up in Beverly; Carlos grew up in Peabody after coming to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic as a teenager.
Dominick attends the Kevin O’Grady School at the North Shore Educational Consortium in Beverly, while his brothers go to Witchcraft Heights Elementary in Salem.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
IF YOU GO Pacheco family fundraiser Saturday, Oct. 26, 6 to 10 p.m. Beverly Franco-American Club, 44 Park St. Tickets are $25 at the door Donations can also be sent to the "Friends and Family of Dominick Pacecho" fund at the Luso-American Credit Union, 37 Tremont St., Peabody, MA 01960; or online at www.gofundme.com/4s9jto