Everyone faces adversities no matter what form they come in. It is how one handles these challenges mentally, emotionally, and physically that determines their future. Xavier Sanchez is a prime example of someone who does not let his limitations determine his success.This has led him to overcome one major obstacle that has prevented him from living his life to the fullest; getting his own vehicle. The opportunity to collaborate with Cameron Davies and the Cruising Kitchens’ team is perfect timing as he begins the next chapter of his life.
Transitioning into adulthood, 21 year old Xavier is just getting to see what life has to offer as he finishes up his last year of college at the University of Texas in San Antonio (UTSA), pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration in Cyber security. After being diagnosed with Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency and Bilateral Fibular Hemimelia (a birth defect in which the femur, fibula, or other limbs are shorter or missing), Xavier has had to rely on his family and friends to take care of him most of his life.
Xavier’s mother, Nora, was his main source of transportation, but once he started school, their schedules started conflicting, so he began taking the bus.“I started going to UTSA, and it took me about two hours to go to and two hours to come back, so I was spending about 4 hrs on the road which is not fun,” said Xavier. Outside of taking the bus, depending on people to give him rides was still a challenge. “…it was just pretty much waiting on other people, seeing are you available at this time, can you pick me up, can I get a ride to a doctor’s office, school, a friend’s house, whatever the case may be,” Xavier goes on to say.
Having to depend on others for transportation is why Xavier and his mother started looking for companies that could build a specialized vehicle for him. “We had explored the process of getting him a vehicle 5 years earlier and I was told that unless I had $100,000 dollars to spend, the possibility of him driving independently was slim, because he would need so many modifications and specialized equipment,” said Nora. After being told it couldn’t be done time and time again, they didn’t know where to turn next. Thankfully, Xavier had been working with an organization on a video, and one of the cameramen worked with Cameron. Once the cameraman told Cameron about Xavier’s story, Cameron immediately wanted to meet him. “I was tired of hearing the stories of him being told no, so I knew that we had to jump in, and step up in a big way,” Cameron stated.
After meeting with the Sanchez family, Cameron wasted no time in beginning to conceptualize with the Shop Manager, lead welder and fabricator, James Flatman, on how they would customize the van to fit Xavier’s needs. After many ideas were tossed around, some of the custom features of the van are as follows: a KSport airbag suspension system (courtesy of Chris at C&W Offroad), which allows 7″ of ride height adjustability, custom upholstered seats, an electrically actuated low profile bifolding wheelchair ramp that is controlled by the press of a button, a steering wheel adaptor that allows Xavier to control the steering with his limbs while not interfering with the factory airbag system, along with gas and brake pedal adaptors that bring both pedals forward and up 12″. They also relocated all the headlight and wiper controls to toggle switches on the center console, which enables a user friendly interface for Xavier. Of course Xavier has to ride in style, so the CK crew installed a 12″ sub paired to the factory sound system, stacked it with new 18″ matt bronze wheels (donated by Wes from Competition), then the Print It team wrapped the van with a silver/gold color change wrap, and it was finished off with a custom ‘X’ grill to represent his name. All of the interior features are easily removable to accommodate Xavier’s mom or other family members that need to drive the vehicle.
“I think for most people they’ll think oh it’s just a car right, but it’s much more than that. It’s like freedom, it’s opportunities, it’s experiences that I haven’t experienced yet, but with this new vehicle I’ll be able to do so. Most importantly, I’m going to be able to take my wheelchair, because my wheelchair is like an extension of myself. It’s like my legs for me,” Xavier emphasizes. The normal tasks like going to the grocery store or a friend’s house that most people take for granted, are some of the things Xavier is looking forward to the most. Not only that, but this also gives his mother Nora a sense of relief. “There is only one of me, and I have been carefully balancing everything on my shoulders for the past 21 years. No more racing from one side of town to the next since Xavier can take care of himself now, and also help with his younger brother. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for!”
To put the icing on the cake for Xavier, Cameron surprised him with a full-time position. ”I was going to ask Cameron if I could just come hang out and work for free and just get some experience with you guys, and he ended up offering me a job when he revealed the van…just the fact that he offered me a position where I’ll be able to get paid and learn a lot, is what I’m super grateful for,” said Xavier. Making the decision to make Xavier a part of the Cruising Kitchens’ family was a no brainer for Cameron. “I say every Monday that attitudes are contagious, and he has the best that I’ve ever seen.Through the process of working with him on the design, I fell in love with him as a person and that is why I decided to give him the job,” says Cameron.
Moving forward, Xavier is looking forward to engaging in all the activities he wasn’t able to experience before he got his own vehicle. “I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for Cameron and the guys putting this together,” Xavier exclaims. Despite all of the doubts people have put in Xavier’s head about his future, he has remained positive, open-minded, and continues to prove his skeptics wrong. His mother has been his biggest supporter from the beginning as she reveals, “This experience has been amazing to say the least, and it played right into how we have experienced life. When I was pregnant with him I was told he would not live, and he did. Then, he would not walk, and he did, and also that driving was not possible for him, and he is now driving on his own! It is the most incredible feeling to have so many caring strangers be part of my child’s life journey and I am forever grateful…My son deserves this, and I will support him in all of his dreams and adventures!”