New nonprofit gives free lifts to Jaguars games
Service beneficial for people struggling to get around
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars hold a special place in Margaret Williamson's heart, especially after quarterback Blake Bortles visited her in the hospital.
"I never really have a lot of people visiting me, so it was great to have somebody to talk to besides my mom," Williamson said.
The Nemours Children's Clinic patient has dysautonomia. Her stomach is paralyzed, and it can be difficult for her to breathe and blink.
It's hard for her to get to the Jaguars games, but a University of Central Florida alum donated tickets, so she, her service dog Gator and her mom decided to go. And they were blown away when someone stopped and offered to give them a free lift.
A new nonprofit organization called EZ Event Ride gives people, especially those who are disabled, a ride to the stadium for games, as well as other big city events.
"This is fabulous," said Christina Williamson, Margaret's mother. "Trying to walk with her wheelchair and him (the service dog) -- it's just absolutely amazing. They're going to take her right on up."
"It's great because the asphalt is really rough on his feet, so walking through the asphalt isn't really easy for him, and it's also hot asphalt is hard on a dog's paws, so for him to be able to ride over there is really great, and for me, too," Margaret said.
The EZ Event Ride is made possible through sponsors.
"The idea behind it was to make it easier and more pleasant for folks who are disabled to get back and forth from parking areas to the stadium," said William Guerrant, of the nonprofit.
Guerrant started the passenger service this season.
"We were walking from a parking area and we saw some people struggling, and there just didn't seem to be enough carts available or enough access to that," Guerrant said. "So I petitioned the city of Jacksonville to find out if we could do this and talked to SMG and the Jaguars, and they let us have at it."
Guerrant now has five golf carts to take people to events in Jacksonville, and another five for the Florida Gators football games in Gainesville.
Guerrant said he averages 600-700 people per cart per game, which is really rewarding.
"It's fantastic. It's very humbling, too, just like helping these folks, giving them a ride," he said. "It's funny how things happen. You have an idea and then you wind up helping a lot of people."
He's helping people like Margaret, who gets to cheer on her favorite team.
"It's a blessing. It is great. It makes life so much easier," Christina Williamson said. "You don't get to the game all worn out and you get to enjoy the day."
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