( 6 Votes )

Vote for John Verga to help him win a custom wheelchair accessible vehicle. Photo by Page H. GiffordBeing born with the birth defect Spina bifida has taught John Verga some tough lessons in life but it has also taught him how to live.
Spina bifida can begin to develop in a fetus before the mother is even aware she is pregnant. In some cases, structures that should be inside the spinal canal can slip out; including membranes that surround the spinal cord, nerve roots that connect nerves to the spinal cord, the spinal cord itself or the vertebra (back bones) may be deformed. This often results in endless surgery and a dismal diagnosis of paralysis.
“I have been in a wheelchair all of my life except for those years when I was in braces and on crutches,” said Verga who used the wheel chair full time once he began attending college. “I had been in and out of the hospitals most of my life and by the time I as 15, I already had 21 surgeries.”
Verga received an Associate’s Degree from Jamestown Community College in upstate New York, where he grew up in Frewsburg; he then received his Bachelor’s in psychology from Virginia State University.
While coming to terms with his disabilities Verga realized his calling. He is a special education teacher at Lafayette School and Treatment Center in Charlottesville where he works with children who have emotional and behavioral disabilities. Verga has been teaching for 20 years and has been in his current job for two years.
“We have started a quilting project at the school,” he said. “This quilting project teaches the children how to work together and communicate, teaches them a life skill and most of all the satisfaction of giving back to the community.” Most of these students have emotional and behavioral problems and Verga’s passion for his students shows in their success. “It is the most rewarding seeing them accomplish something,” he said. He patiently guides his students through the process, allowing for creativity and learning. Each of his students, all middle school age, are working on their own quilts. The Charlottesville Sewing and Quilting Guilds are volunteering to help as well.
The Bama Works Fund of the Dave Mathews Band, administered by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, was instrumental in awarding a $5,000 grant to Verga to help spearhead his quilting project for Project Linus. Project Linus is a non-profit organization, providing homemade blankets to children in need. Their blankets are made by adults and children and come from a variety of sources, Verga’s students being one of those unique sources.
Verga, who resides at Lake Monticello with his Doberman, stated that May is National Mobility Awareness month.
“To help spread the word about how people with disabilities can lead active, mobile lifestyles the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association has sponsored a contest,” he said. “According to their website this is the third year they have had this contest and have given away wheelchair accessible vehicles.” After reading about the contest, Verga thought ‘why not try it?’ The contest focuses on local heroes across the U.S. and Canada, sharing their stories about how they or someone they know have overcome the challenges of living with a disability. The most deserving will win a custom wheelchair accessible vehicle.
Verga has uploaded his story to their website and is asking people to go to the website, register, and vote for him.“You can vote every day and there is an opportunity to earn an extra vote if you answer a question about wheelchair mobility,” he adds. “This will help me to become a semi-finalist in the contest.” He realizes that he has a lot of competition but realizes he has overcome so much in his life so far and is so proud of his students and their accomplishments, he is willing to try anything. To vote for John Verga, go to http://bit.ly/1hUj5xD