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Carpenter, patient with ALS, given van by stranger

Jimmy Carpenter didn’t know Johna Burchett until days ago, but he is grateful for the difference she has made in his life.

Carpenter, a Winchester resident, has ALS, or Loui Gehrig’s disease, a nervous system disorder that causes loss of muscle control.

Until days ago, he had to rely on public transportation to go to the doctor or get around town.

That was until some friends, including Walter Diffee, Dale Hatton and John Owens, decided to do something about it.

Diffee got in touch with a friend, Bobbi Collins, who had a cousin, Jason Burchett, who died of ALS in September 2018 and left behind a 1993 Ford Econoline van with a lift Carpenter would need to get his motorized wheelchair in and out.

Jason’s sister, Johna, and their mother, Norma Burchett, of Johnson County, wanted Carpenter to have it.

“It’s what my brother would have wanted,” Johna said.

The van was delivered to Carpenter in Winchester last Thursday.

The friends also came up with several hundred dollars through a GoFundMe account for whatever repairs the van needed, which included a new battery and tires.

“He was just beside himself,” Diffee said. “It was incredible people came together to help, especially since he was a stranger to the folks that had the van.”

Carpenter said he was “blessed.”

“She is so sweet,” Carpenter said, describing Burchett. “I really feel like they’re family, and I’ve only talked with them for a few days.”

He said Burchett owns a restaurant and has invited him to come to Johnson County to see her and let her treat him to a meal.

“It’s exactly what I needed,” he said. He said it’s going to make “a huge difference” in his life.

Diffee said it would be good for his friend to be able to get out of the house.

“The sense of freedom is valuable,” he said.

Another friend, Owens, who lives with Carpenter and cares for him, will be his driver.

Burchett said she saw a Facebook post about Carpenter needing a van, and they talked about it. Her mom said, “Well, I know what we’re going to do.”

Norma Burchett said whatever money was left over from what his friends raised to fix up the van would be payment enough, and if there was nothing left, it’s still his.

Johna said Jason would have wanted another ALS patient to have the van, and so did she and her mother.

“It’s just something God put on our hearts to help somebody because there were a lot of people who helped my brother,” she said.

Hatton said those who helped raise money to have the van towed to Winchester included Kirk Alan Gilchrest of Euro-Werks, Robert Pritchett of Bargains on Broadway and A+ Towing.

Hatton said he, Diffee, Owens and Carpenter all know one another and are friends from having worked together at DJ’s, a local steakhouse.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at

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