Contact: Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

HAMILTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes joined representatives from Allies, Inc. today to present a Hamilton man with a new and improved power wheelchair to replace his old model.

Jose Feliciano, 81, was struck in his wheelchair by a construction truck on South Broad Street in Trenton in August 2006 and dragged 200 feet before the truck driver realized what happened. Feliciano suffered severe injuries, including a broken hip and a broken arm, and his wheelchair was damaged beyond repair.

Following the accident, local mobility assistance organization Allies, Inc. of Hamilton provided Feliciano with a new wheelchair. Hughes, meanwhile, spearheaded a collaborative effort between Allies and the County to outfit Feliciano and other wheelchair users with safety flags to improve the visibility of their chairs.

"Mr. Feliciano's plight really touched our hearts," Hughes said as he and Allies' staff members presented Feliciano with his power wheelchair at Allies headquarters on Whitehorse-Hamilton Square Road. "We wanted to make sure that when the opportunity came and we were contacted by Allies that we would do everything possible to get a new wheelchair for Jose."

Allies received a donated power wheelchair that had to undergo substantial repair before it could operate. Mercer County contributed several hundred dollars to cover the repairs, which included a new battery and charger and upgrades to some other mechanical features. Hughes and other County officials identified money within the County's existing budget to finance the upgrades, and paid these costs in full on the condition that the chair be given to Feliciano when completed.

Hughes noted that using a powerchair enhances the accessibility of a given location because powerchairs generally have thicker, sturdier wheels and frames than their manual counterparts do, and can thus negotiate ramps and rough surfaces with greater ease.

Lorri Luongo, chief financial officer of Allies, Inc., said Allies was happy to help people in need such as Feliciano and that the organization was pleased with its partnership with the County. Also on hand to present the wheelchair to Feliciano was Allies' Director of New Initiatives, Fran Curley.

Feliciano, for his part, said he was fully recovered and said, "Muy bueno" when asked how his new wheelchair operated.

Hughes and Allies also reminded residents who use a wheelchair or their family members that the red wheelchair flags, which make wheelchair users easily identifiable as they travel on sidewalks or cross roadways, are available at no charge. To obtain a wheelchair flag, call Fran Curley at Allies, Inc. at (609) 689-0136 ext. 143.