MELROSE, Wis. -- Chance is an interesting thing. It was by chance that last August a tractor pulling a hay wagon was traveling on this very rural road at the same time 19-year-old Nick Dobbs turned on to it. By chance that tractor was in the one spot where tall grass and corn blocked Nick's view. And it was simply chance that swelling in Nick's already shattered spine traveled upward robbing him of the ability to move his arms or even breathe on his own.
"The first few months of this entire ordeal has been bad news. To tell you you can't breathe, you can't walk, you can't use your arms. And your probably not going to get any better."
"He needs total help with everything." It's bad enough he can't move his body, but without the money to buy a handicap accessible vehicle he is literally trapped. "Stay home and make do with what you've got."
But 'make do' is not nearly good enough for this community. Especially for Nick's former teacher and coach Bill Allen. "The greatest thing we can do right now is try to find some transportation."
Chance is an interesting thing. "It all started with an 8th grade student."
Mr. Allen was trying to find some type of affordable handicapped vehicle with no luck. But by chance he mentioned his dilemma to student John Cain. "I remember when Mr. Allen was looking at these Vans and they were 30-40 thousand dollars and I thought that was a lot of money."
"And then this 8th grade student...he goes, 'Mr. Allen, it's simple - go buy a bus!'"
And this is the moment when chance...turned into fate. It just so happens the Mel-Min school board recently approved the purchase of four new buses...which meant - getting rid of four old ones. "Mr. Allen came to me and said, I hear we have some buses for sale. Is one of them a little bus? I said yeah."
"And at that point, my heart throbs and I think, 'this 8th graders a genius!'"
Initially Nick decided to try and buy the bus but Mr. Allen was one step ahead. "I bought the bus. The price of the bus doesn't mean anything. It's just something he needs."
Then Mr. Allen and transportation Director Mark Roberts spent hours fixing up the bus. "The flashing light needed to come off, the stop arms."
"Then things really started to happen."
Enter fellow teacher Chad Mather. "During lunch one day he was talking about a school bus and using it for Nick but he had one conundrum: to paint it. You had to paint it to make it legal to use. He had the idea of spray paint and I thought there had to be a better way."
And that's when Midtown Collision joined the team. "Chad Mather, one of the teachers up there, my daughter rides horses at his wife's stable. Chad e-mailed to see if I had some leftover paint lying around." "I got an e-mail back saying..." "We've got the equipment, we've got the booth, I've got the paint, I'd be willing to donate the paint and labor."
And what's more...Nick would get to pick the color. Packers green? Brewers Blue? Not exactly. "I know we live in Wisconsin and all but I'm really not a Packer fan. I've been a fan of the Eagles for a few years and it sounded like a good idea to paint it that color."
"We contacted the Eagles and they gave us the color standard to paint the bus so it matches perfectly. They're also going to be sending a package."
And the good deeds don't stop there. "We want to bling it out for him. Our paint manufactured stepped up and donated the paint and products. Our glass guy was going to fix the chips in the windshield and got here and said I'll just put a new one on. We're gonna put some chrome rims on it so it looks real nice. Give him something to be proud to ride around in."
After more than 4 weeks in the shop and 100 hours of volunteered labor, it's finally ready for Nick to see. "Oh my Gosh. I love it. It doesn't even look like a school bus anymore. That looks amazing. I'm not going to lie!"
"I just suggested a simple idea right over there and all of a sudden Nick has this wonderful bus."
"It's just been an absolute privilege to do something for him because he's just a solid outstanding young man."
"Small town, Large town. People willing to help others that's what's awesome to see. There's good things happening in our communities."
"I really don't know what to say. Thank you is not enough. People giving up time and money to give me something so I can go out and kind of be a normal person again."
Nick's life will never be the same. But thanks to this army of support, his life will never be the same. In Melrose with photographer Chuck Oedsma, Jennifer Livingston...News 8.
We want to send a huge thanks to the following businesses that donated products and labor to fix up Nick's bus: