Joliet man overcoming hardships with community’s help
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org June 27, 2012 9:04PM
Bob Goss is seen in his 2011 Honda Element a year after a fire ravaged his home as seen Friday, June 22, 2012, in Lockport Township. Bob was left paralyzed after back surgery just before the fire. A fundraiser allowed Goss to purchase the car, an Invacare bike and a new wheelchair. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Wheels 4 Goose
The family of Bob and Denise Goss wish to thank family, friends and neighbors who showed up by the hundreds at “Wheels 4 Goose.”
They wish to thank Dee Jaworski, Denise’s sister, and the fundraising committee. Jaworski thought of the idea for the event and established the committee.
The sponsors for “Wheels 4 Goose” included: Siegels Cottonwood Farm, D’Arcy Motors, Dr. Patrick Smith, Alco Signs, Blue Ribbon products, Northern Illinois Steel, Kozol Brothers, DuPree Construction, City Beverage Illinois, Pine Noel Resort, Sumbaum Cycle, Sheps Tavern, The Locker Room and Glen Sharp. The bands included Faded Ink and The Royal We.
Updated: July 29, 2012 5:09PM
JOLIET — An entire year has spun around, and the wheel of seasons has turned to a more favorable place for Bob Goss.
Last year at this time, Goss was in the midst of hardship. He had suffered paralysis as a result of unexpected complications from back surgery. And on June 4, 2011, lightning struck his house and started a fire.
His family needed help, and they got it in a big way.
Two weeks after the fire, a fundraising event for Goss was a great success. The name of the event, “Wheels 4 Goose,” was a reference to Goss’ nickname — and his goal of increased independence. The fundraiser generated enough money for Goss to purchase a wheelchair-accessible sport utility vehicle and bicycle, as well as a high-end lightweight wheelchair.
The wheel of seasons has made one complete turn from that time. Today, Goss has three new sets of wheels, giving him freedom of transportation within his home, to and from therapy, to and from his job, and within the Joliet community that stepped forward to help him.
“To know that many people care about you is really kind of a cool thing,” Goss said.
The Goss family had always been the one to lend a hand. They were not used to receiving help.
“We were always giving and helping. Prior to his surgery, we always helped people,” said Bob’s wife, Denise Goss.
When the help came, the Goss family was overwhelmed. Before the event, donations poured in — food, water and clothing. Bob’s employer, Johnson Controls, made donations for lawn care. When it came time to plan the event, the “Wheels 4 Goose” committee had 30 to 40 members, Denise said.
Dozens of people showed up and cared. And that was just the committee.
“Wheels 4 Goose” attracted between 800 and 1,000 people to Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill. The event included food, children’s activities, live bands, a beer garden, raffles and a silent auction.
The Goss family wants donors to know about the positive changes they helped make possible in the last year.
New SUV: With the proceeds, Bob was able to purchase a wheelchair-accessible Honda Element.
“It really gave me a lot of freedom,” he said.
Bob simply pushes a button on a handheld control and two side doors automatically open. A mechanized ramp, wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, extends to the ground.
Bob then rolls up the ramp. The vehicle is around 8 inches lower than a standard Element, allowing for an easier ramp angle.
When Bob reaches the vehicle’s interior, he transfers to the driver’s seat. With therapy, Bob has increased his arm strength enough to make an easy transfer. The rest is history.
“I’m off to the races,” he said.
The driver’s seat is the only seat up front, in order to make room for the wheelchair. However, there are two back seats for passengers.
Bob’s children, his friends and his neighbors used to provide much-appreciated transportation. Now, Goss can drive himself — even to work in Chicago and Arlington Heights.
The accessible vehicle was custom-designed by Freedom Motors of Battle Creek, Mich.
New wheelchair: Bob’s wheelchair is lighter, higher-end and easier to maneuver, with a better fit. He uses the new wheelchair outdoors and on the first floor of his renovated home. In order to ascend the stairs to the second level, he transfers to a lift and then to another wheelchair waiting at the top of the staircase.
New bicycle: The three-wheel bike is well-built and low to the ground, for easy transfer from Bob’s wheelchair. The bike helps Bob stay in shape. He plans to join a couple of races this year.
Last week, the Goss family showed The Herald-News the renovations made to their Calico Court home, in the year after the 2011 lightning strike and fire.
The whole first floor is all wood flooring that accommodates a wheelchair. The kitchen now has an angled peninsula counter that allows Bob increased access to any part of the room. The main bathroom has a corner sink, so Bob can maneuver his wheelchair right up to it. The former living room is now Bob’s office, with a wide doorway. A friend installed a countertop for Goss’ desk.
The second floor has been renovated to allow a larger bathroom in the master bedroom. Bob now can wheel into the shower area and the shower itself. The second floor also has Bob’s exercise room, with weights.
The front and back of the home have wheelchair-accessible ramps.
Today, Bob and Denise can travel together in the SUV. Their children, Creighton and Katie, come home from college, and they still have their own rooms, the same size as before, on the renovated second floor of their home.
In June 2011, The Herald-News ran a story about Bob’s hardships, and the headline read, “Your life takes a 180-degree turn.”
Now that a full year has come 360, Bob Goss is a stronger, more independent member of his community. And his family wants to thank that community.
“It was overwhelming, heartwarming, unbelievable,” Denise said.