Steve Wilson is a well-known artist from Victor, Montana. He was paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident in 1991. Unable to continue his normal job and with a young family to raise, he set about developing a new career. His mother was a painter and he had been painting some prior to his accident. He decided this was the best way to give back to the community who had been so generous in helping make his home handicapped accessible.
While developing his painting skills, he also developed his teaching skills and has been an adult education painting instructor for many years. He also teaches some classes at the Bitterroot College.
The Bitterroot Valley plays a primary role in the paintings Wilson has done. There are paintings of St. Mary’s Peak, Big Creek Lake, Mill Creek Canyon and many other areas in the valley. Many times, there will be an elk, mule deer, ducks or other animals in the painting. He has donated paintings to the Bitterroot Celtic Society, the Mule Deer Foundation, Breast Cancer Research, Rocky Mounting Elk Foundation and many, many other causes.
“It would be fair to say that Steve has helped raise thousands of dollars for funding efforts,” said Julie Hoselton who has been a student of Wilson’s for several years.
A few months ago, Wilson found a new type of wheelchair while browsing on the internet. The Ogo is a two wheeled chair that is built for fun, freedom, independence, durability and safety, and, according to the website, an added touch of coolness and style. The Ogo is manufactured in New Zealand. It is battery powered and uses a one of a kind active moving seat control to maneuver about. It is based on Segway technology.
Wilson posted a video of the Ogo on his facebook page and jokingly asked if anyone wanted to buy it for him. A flurry of outpouring followed with a go-fund-me site set up. Hoselton asked Wilson if he was serious about getting one and Wilson said he really would like one.
After talking with Wilson, Hoselton and Rebekah Swanson, another acquaintance of Wilson’s, conspired via email and put together a plan for a fundraiser to raise the $17,000 for the Ogo wheelchair, plus duty and import fees. Hoselton is hoping to raise $20,000 to cover all these costs.
Wilson said he is continually getting high centered when working in his yard or having trouble getting out into the woods. “With the Ogo, I’ll even be able to dance with Cathy, my wife.”
He expects to have his custom made Ogo in August. It will be shipped to Boise, Idaho, to a dealer there. Wilson will go there to learn how to operate it.
Wilson doesn’t want this to be just about him though. He said when he first became paralyzed and was in a wheel chair, it was encouraging to see other people getting around in their wheel chairs and gave him hope. With this new Ogo technology, he is hoping other disabled people will see it and become ‘abled.’
“I think that this will also open a whole new avenue for people who are disabled, and bring back more freedom and mobility.”
As Hoselton and Wilson began researching funding opportunities to supplement the benefit, each came up with new sources. “I don’t want this just about me, I want to help people with new sources and new technology,” said Wilson.
Hoselton, through her research, found the Montana Able Project. This project began in 2015 by the federal government but the Department of Revenue in Montana oversees the Montana program. A person has to qualify for the program but once approved, the fund can be used for the comfort and care of the person on the account. This includes vehicles, household improvements and other qualified disability expenses. The ABLEnow accounts help people with disabilities to save money without being taxed on the earnings and in many cases, without losing eligibility for certain benefits. Hoselton said that one of the employees at the Department of Revenue told her that only about 4% of Montanans even know about this fund.
Wilson also found a foundation in Missoula, the Marshal and Mary Brondum Special Assistance Foundation, that helps people with specific medical aids. He has applied for a grant from that foundation.
On August 10, 2018, at 6pm, there will be a benefit for Wilson and the Ogo wheelchair at the First Interstate Building at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds. Tickets will be pre sold at $25 each. Included in the ticket will be dinner and dessert by Moose Creek BBQ, and a silent and live auction by Swanson’s Estate Sales with Jim Ellis auctioneering. Among the donations already donated are some Wilson paintings, art lessons, and a donation by Cooper Firearms.
Contact Rebekah Swanson at 499-0579 for tickets, arrange donations of auction items, or volunteer for the event. Contact Hoselton at 370-1726 to arrange donations of auction items, tickets, or monetary donations. There is also a local bank account set up at Farmers State Bank: Steve Wilson-OGO Wheelchair account. Any Farmers State Bank branch can accept donations.
“Julie (Hoselton), and Rebekah (Swanson), have done so much,” said Wilson. “I’m very honored. It’s always easier to give than to receive. I want to help out as best I can to let everyone know about the Ogo and the programs.”