Teri Vance: Injured Carson City teen gifted adapted car
After four months of intensive-care treatment then rehabilitation following a rollover accident in Kings Canyon that left her paralyzed, Stefanie Schmidt is now home in Carson City adjusting to her new life.
“This may not have been the path we chose, but this is the path we’re on now,” said her father, Mike Schmidt. “Out mantra is, ‘Always forward.’”
Moving forward got a little easier for Stefanie on Friday when Rupert’s Auto Body donated a handicap-adaptive 2000 Lexus to the 15-year-old girl who had just received her learner’s permit before the accident.
“Driving has always been a goal of mine,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to do that.”
In a ceremony in front of the auto body shop on Friday afternoon, city officials and first responders gathered to see Stefanie receive her new car and to wish her well.
“You are the reason why we are here and why we serve,” said Carson City Fire Chief Sean Slamon. “Fighters like you make us realize it’s worth doing what we do.”
Stefanie was one of seven students involved in a rollover accident in Kings Canyon in November. Four of the teens were critically injured. Timothy Jones later died of his injuries.
“Tragedy struck in Carson City when seven of our finest were hurt,” said Mayor Bob Crowell. “When someone is hurt, this community stands together to help them heal.
“I want to say a special thank you to Rupert’s for extending the hand of friendship to Stefanie.”
Rupert said the idea came together when a customer donated his wife’s handicap-accessible car. Employees fixed it up and offered it to the teen.
“We found out Stefanie had a need and we could fill the need,” he said. “So we made it happen. We wanted to bring the community together to let her know she’s not alone.”
Mike Schmidt said the car came at the right moment.
“The rehab hospital said that this is perfect for her because she’s never driven before so she doesn’t have muscle memory,” he said. “She’ll be set up for learning adaptive driving.”
Before the ceremony, Carson City Sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Richards, who helped extricate Stefanie from the wreckage, approached her.
“I’m glad to see you here,” he said, before giving her his card and instructing her to call if she ever needed anything.
After seeing her that night, going in and out of consciousness, he said he was happy to see how well she was doing.
“I’m amazed,” he said. “She seems to have a great spirit.”
Mike Schmidt said he and his family have been overwhelmed by all of the support from the community since the accident.
“The outreach has been unbelievable,” he said. “My heart has grown four times from it. Carson City is probably the best place to live in America. And now to get this car, this is what stories are written about. We’re living in a fairytale.”
School board trustee Ron Swirczek said Stefanie has given as much as she received.
“You are an inspiration to us all,” Swirczek told her. “You brought out the best in this community. We wish you the best going forward, and we’re going to be supporting you all the way.”