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Stair lift becomes unique gift from family of one vet to another

Caddie Nath
Special to the Daily
ALL |

A Silverthorne stair lift that made a World War II veteran and his wife’s last years a little easier will soon find a new home in Golden, in the service of another veteran and his wife.

Through the combined efforts of the families of both veterans, a local Realtor, a nonprofit agency and several others, William Bruns, a Korean War veteran and his wife, Margaret, are expected to have the stair lift installed in time for Christmas.

Margaret Bruns said the donation “meant a whole lot,” to both her and her husband.

The lift’s original owners, James and Mildred Vincent, first installed the stair lift – a device that transports individuals with limited mobility up and down staircases – in their Silverthorne home after James Vincent underwent double-hip replacement surgery.

The stairlift helped both James and Mildred access the basement and handle the steep staircases in their home. When the Vincents passed away, their daughter Polly Welsh knew she wanted the stair lift to continue to help someone who needed it.

So when her parents’ house in Silverthorne sold, Welsh asked her Realtor, Butch Elich, to find out whether the buyers would mind donating the stair lift if they didn’t need it themselves.

“I asked if (the buyer) would consider donating it if they weren’t going to use it because that’s what Mom and Dad would have done,” Welsh said. “They were both just such philanthropists. They would have always wanted someone else who was in need to have something.”

Meanwhile, at the far end of the Interstate 70 corridor, William Bruns, a veteran of the Korean war and his wife, Margaret, were facing some of the same challenges the Vincents had faced.

In mid-October William broke his hip, ending up in a wheel chair, and Margaret was dealing with complications from a knee replacement. Living on the top floor of a duplex, with no way to get to their cars except by a flight of stairs, the Bruns knew they would soon have to find an alternative way to manage the staircase. While William was doing rehabilitation therapy, they asked their former son-in-law to look into it for them. He passed the task on to his computer-savy daughter, Bree Barned.

Bree began exploring the possibility of installing a stair lift in her grandparents’ home, but cringed when she saw the prices.

“I started researching and these lifts, new, are insanely expensive,” Barned said.

A new stair lift cost approximately $10,000. and the devices are seldom covered by health insurance. So Barned began asking around to find a used lift or one that could be donated. Eventually, she got in touch with the Kid’s Mobility Network, who promised to help.

“We typically only help children … (and) our focus is really around wheels,” said Christy Kopp, executive director of the Kids Mobility Network. “So this has kind of been two off of what we would normally do. But we like to help any folks who have mobility issues if we can.”

Back in Summit County, Cody Ray, of Suburban Lift Services, removed the lift from the Vincent’s Silverthorne home was ready to call the Kid’s Mobility Network about donating it when he got a call from Barned, who was already working with the organization.

Kopp and the Kid’s Mobility Network arranged for the stair lift to be donated to the Bruns and secured funding from a local foundation to cover costs of the installation.

By a stroke of luck, the Vincent’s stair lift, 2 feet longer than a normal lift, was exactly the right size to fit in the Bruns’ staircase, according to Ray who will do the installation. He said the lift was in excellent condition, but was likely too old to re-sell.

“The whole thing, all by consequence, happened to work out just perfectly,” Ray said.

Kopp said the donation is still in the paper-work phase, but that William and Margaret Bruns should receive the lift sometime this month.


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