It was a day in 2006 that changed Olive Branch Police Detective Mark Ayers' life forever.
"We were doing a traffic stop in Olive Branch and a subject shot the officer I was with and shot me as I was getting out of the patrol car," recalls Ayers about the incident that left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Ayers says it's a lot of work every day to be independent and mobile in a wheelchair; he admits he has his good days and his bad days. The one thing he says helps the most is having his wheelchair-accessible van.
"Just a wheelchair accessible vehicle such as a ramp or lift equipment, things of that nature makes it a huge difference in getting around," he says.
The 2005 Ford van he bought is used is in good enough shape and gets him to and from work at the police department, but the controls are malfunctioning and he is putting a lot of money into repairs.
One day in April he took the van into the shop and, "They said, ‘Are you trying out for National Mobility Awareness? They're giving away a wheelchair accessible vehicle.' I said I hadn't heard about it."
Ayers is now one of more than 200 stories about people with mobility challenges. Visitors to the National Mobility Awareness website vote for the story they find worthy, and the entrants voted the top five-percent will be reviewed by the organization to see who wins a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
The voting started March 11 but Ayers didn't find out about it until the end of April. He was a little behind, but the Olive Branch community started a Facebook and email campaign. In three weeks he received 8,000 votes.
"I'm extremely appreciative of everything everybody's done," says Ayers, "They helped me out in the past when I was injured and especially the support is just really incredible."
You would expect Ayers to campaign for himself but that's not the case.
"There may be another somebody out there that you feel may be more fortunate, that's fine and I can understand that. Again, if we get more awareness out there to me that's as important as anything else," says Ayers.
Here is the link to take people right to the National Mobility Awareness voting page; voting ends at midnight on Friday.
Also, the suspect that shot Ayers and his partner is still on the loose. If you have any information about the suspect you are asked to call your local Crime Stoppers.
National Mobility Awareness voting page: http://www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/local-heroes/