‘Zack’s Pack’ pursues big dream for local family

STOCKPORT–On television it’s an easy feat: A large group of people assemble their talents and money, and voila!–a house is built. Extreme Makeover, Stockport Edition promises to be a little slower going.

Stockport firefighter Mark Krizar told The Columbia Paper that a group of friends of 13-year-old Zackary Van Allen known as Zack’s Pack is trying to raise funds to build a handicap-accessible house for the Ichabod Crane Middle School 6th grader, who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down. The family–mother Kim, father Paul and sisters Ashley, 19, and Tabitha, 11–lives in a three-bedroom trailer. In 2004, volunteers built a ramp and deck to permit Zack’s wheelchair to get into and out of the trailer (his parents had been carrying him), but the interior is not handicap accessible. To permit his wheelchair to enter the bathroom, the door had to be removed. In 2007, a fundraiser helped buy a van with a wheelchair lift gate to transport Zack and his family.

Donna Ringwood, Zack’s aunt, said his family “never asks for anything, but they’re the first to volunteer to help” other people. Mrs. Van Allen works for Walmart; Mr. Van Allen is a mechanic at the Stockport Garage.

Barbara and Barry Goldstein are members of the Stockport Volunteer Fire Co., where Zack’s father is also a volunteer and Zack a frequent visitor. The Goldsteins have donated two acres, and Zack’s Pack has begun fundraising in earnest for the $199,000 or so they estimate that building a house will cost.

The Albany County Correctional Facility for Children’s Benefit (www.accfrcb.org) has taken Zack under its wing to help cover some of Zack’s needs, Ms. Ringwood said. Local fire departments are competing to raise funds for Zack’s house: a unique trophy and a listing on the Zack Pack website (zackspack.org–still under construction by another friend) await the winner, with an August 23 cut-off date. Three have signed up so far.

A fundraiser at Taconic Hills High School raised $2,300. Several local businesses are selling Zack’s Pack wristbands. But there remains a long road ahead. Ms. Ringwood said that only about $6,000 has been raised so far. Any donation can help, she said. Five dollars could buy a box of nails, $10 a piece of sheetrock.

There are also plans for an auction. “Anyone wanting to donate any items can contact me,” Ms. Ringwood said. She can be reached at (518)207-6073.

“We are working hard to get Habitat for Humanity on board with us,” Ms. Ringwood said. They are “checking into their budget, among other things,” she said. The group is also hoping that Habitat will be willing to “umbrella us” with a with its non-profit status so donations will be tax deductible.

The next fundraiser is a pig roast set for Saturday, June 5, at the Stuyvesant Fire House 194 Route 26-A. Tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for kids age 6 to 12. The event will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and will feature hot dogs and hamburgers, entertainment and a roasted pig dinner with all the fixings. There will also be door prizes and a raffle.

Contributions may also be sent to Zack’s Pack, c/o Donna Ringwood, P.O. Box 431, Valatie, NY 12184.

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