Toyota gives wheelchair van as wedding gift to amazing bride

Toyota and The Braun Corporation have partnered to provide a unique wedding present to a very special bride. A little over a year ago, Rachelle Friedman was celebrating her bachelorette party when she was pushed into a swimming pool. When she fell, Friedman broke her C6 vertebra and became a quadriplegic in an instant. After 14 months of hospitals, physical therapy and daunting medical bills, Friedman and her fiancé finally tied the knot on July 22.

While the bride and her family were preparing for the wedding, Toyota and Braun, one of the leading manufacturers of wheelchair-accessible van conversions, lent Friedman a vehicle to help out. Before that, her mother had to carry her in and out of the family's SUV. What Friedman didn't know was that Toyota was planning to surprise the newlyweds with an accessible Sienna Rampvan of their very own.

The new vehicle has opened up a new level of comfort and independence, and Friedman says that she can't wait to learn to drive on her own next. While most of us would have a hard time facing Friedman's reality, the young woman has maintained a positive outlook throughout her ordeal that's as inspirational as it is amazing. We wish Friedman and her husband, Chis Chapman, the best. Hit the jump for the press release.
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Newlywed Paralyzed in Tragic Accident Gains New Lease on Life

BraunAbility, Toyota Surprise Rachelle Friedman with Mobility Vehicle Donation

RALEIGH, NC – July 22, 2011 – Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and The Braun Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vans and wheelchair lifts, today announced the surprise wedding day donation of a brand new 2011 Toyota Sienna with a BraunAbility Rampvan® XT conversion to Rachelle Friedman, who was paralyzed as a result of a tragic accident during her bachelorette party in May 2010.

BraunAbility and local mobility dealer Van Products Inc. had loaned 23-year-old Rachelle and her fiancé Chris Chapman a BraunAbility Sienna Rampvan® while they planned their wedding. Unbeknownst to them, plans were in the works for the ultimate surprise: the donation of a mobility vehicle to the couple as a wedding gift they could use for years to come.

"Rachelle's resolve and strength are truly inspirational," said Nick Gutwein, President of Braun. "We were so moved by her story that we wanted to help her not only while she planned for her wedding, but also as she moves forward in her married life."

"On behalf of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. and Toyota Mobility, we are honored to share in this joyous occasion," Scott Heyer, Corporate Fleet/TRAC/TCUV Manager, told Rachelle and Chris. "We hope this special gift will enrich your new life together and enhance your health and happiness today and in the future. Congratulations!"

Rachelle had been using the loaned vehicle for wedding appointments and for travel between quad-rugby practices and tournaments, as well as therapy appointments. Until Van Products loaned her the vehicle, her mother had been carrying her in and out of her SUV.

"The van's made all the difference in the world," said Rachelle. "Not only has it saved my mom's back, it's just made it so much easier to get out and do things. I've missed this level of comfort, convenience and independence. Next up...learning to drive on my own!"

Joe Garnett, Braun Director of Marketing and Dealer Programs, and Scott Heyer, Toyota Motor Sales Corporate Fleet/TRAC/TCUV Manager, presented the 2011 Braun Toyota Sienna to Rachelle and Chris following the couple's wedding reception in Raleigh, NC.

Rachelle will keep the mobility community updated on her driving lessons via BraunAbility's online blog, AbilityVoice, at

For more information about Van Products Inc., visit, and for more information on Rachelle, visit

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