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Resident builds wheelchair ramp for neighbor

Stolen ramp replaced by helpful neighbor.

July 26, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Mary Jane Cannon, of Burbank, wheels herself up a ramp in her front yard in Burbank on Monday, July 25, 2011. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Mary Jane Cannon, of Burbank, wheels herself up a ramp…

The two cement steps leading to Mary Jane Cannon’s front door in the 1300 block of Fairview Avenue are no more than 18 inches high. With her folding aluminum ramp — she has been in a wheelchair since a car accident at the age of 16 — it was easy access.

But in December, Cannon returned from her job at Carmax to find the ramp missing.

“When I came home, it literally looked like a grave because where the ramp was the grass hadn’t grown,” Cannon said.

She determined the ramp had been stolen between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. on a Monday. A police investigation went nowhere. And Cannon, a mother of three, did not have the insurance coverage or cash to purchase a new ramp, which costs about $500.

She was forced to depend on family members and friends to help her into her house.

“A couple of times I crawled up the steps,” Cannon said. “I just figured it wasn’t going to change unless I got insurance again.”

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A few doors down, neighbors Jeff and Judy Ferguson were struggling with their own life hurdles. Judy Ferguson was eight years into a battle with cancer when they received news that their 13-year-old grandson had also been diagnosed with the disease.

Their daughter, a single mother, was forced to quit work in order to accompany the child during his treatment at UCLA Medical Center. Friends rallied around the young family, staging a successful fundraiser to keep them afloat.

The Fergusons were deeply touched, and immediately looked for ways to pass on the kindness. Jeff Ferguson thought of his neighbor, and began sneaking down to her house to make preliminary measurements for a new wheelchair ramp. He also studied the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure his design mirrored federal standards.

“We decided we wanted to do this to pay it forward, to do something for someone we know is in need, who is our friend and neighbor Mary Jane, because of all the help we have gotten with our grandson,” Judy Ferguson said.

Her husband, a retired Los Angeles firefighter, was concerned that the ramp would be an eye sore, so he painted the wood ramp a dark green color to help it blend in with the lawn.

“Anybody who has a problem — a plumbing problem, a health problem, an animal problem — they call Jeff and Jeff goes to the rescue,” Judy Ferguson said. “He is just very giving in nature.”

A few weeks into the project, Jeff Ferguson showed the ramp to Cannon.

“I was shocked,” Cannon said.

On Monday, with the help of another neighbor, Jeff Ferguson installed the nearly 11-foot ramp in his neighbor’s front yard. Staking and riffing holds it flush against the cement steps.

“He is my hero, I told him that,” Cannon said. “He is definitely my hero.”
 
 

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