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'It feels good': Billings nonprofit surprises Hays woman with wheelchair

Posted at 8:32 AM, May 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-06 10:32:29-04

BILLINGS — Everyone deserves a chance to live independently and that's exactly what Billings nonprofit LIFTT does for Montanans across the state. One Hays woman saw that first hand Saturday after the organization surprised her with an electric wheelchair, but it's not the only way LIFTT has helped her family.

It was tough for Carmelita Blackcrow to witness her son Al struggle with addiction but she always gave him her love and support.

“I’m used to going to getting bond money, courts, jail, and then now it happened. Never doubt prayers. I never did give up on him, I never did,” said Blackcrow at LIFTT's new location on Crawford Drive Saturday.

Carmelita and Al Blackcrow

Sometimes it takes a traumatic experience to spark change.

“Three days after I lost my dad, I went to treatment and that’s when I made the choice to stay clean and sober,” Al said solemnly.

Despite the death of the family's patriarch, Al is now sober and thriving as an independent living specialist with LIFTT.

“I lost my husband of 54 years. Last July 13, at 12:33 in the morning and it’s never been the same,” said Blackcrow.

“Losing him, she lost a lot of herself too, and now we have to pick up the slack and take care of my mom,” Al added.

With LIFTT's help, that's exactly what he did over the weekend.

Al, Carmelita, and John Robison

“You mean this is mine? I don’t know what to say, you’ll make me cry,” said Blackcrow as she watched LIFTT employee John Robison wheel out her new chair.

A good Samaritan donated the wheelchair to LIFTT and the organization jumped at the chance to help a woman in need.

“Our consumers, we take pride in making sure we do the best we can to ensure they’re living, they’re successful, they’re independent. So, this just validates what LIFTT does and how we’re here to help people out,” said Robison, LIFTT's director of outreach.

Blackcrow knows a piece of her husband will be with her whenever she takes the chair out for a spin.

Al and Carmelita Blackcrow

“He’s here you know. He’d be so proud of me today. I could just see him telling me, I’ll take it back, I’ll tie it on top of the car, I’ll tie it on Jo Jo’s car,” Blackcrow said.

Al, affectionately nicknamed Jo Jo, knows he made the right decision all those months ago.

“It feels good. It really does. It makes me want to stay here, it makes me want to be a good person, you know,” said Al.