Tennessee teen launches fundraiser to buy wheelchair-accessible van for little brother

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MORRISTOWN, Tenn — A Tennessee teen is on a mission to get the money for a new set of wheels for her brother who is in need of a wheelchair-accessible van.

Rylee Linkous, 17, is raising money to buy the van for her brother, 9-year-old Xander Linkous.

Xander was born premature and when he was 5 weeks old, Linkous said their mother, who had a drug addiction, smothered him, leaving him with brain damage. Nine years later, he is unable to walk, talk, eat or swallow.

His sister said despite the challenges he faces, he is outgoing, smart and brave.

Xander can not walk, talk, eat, or swallow. But his sister says he’s happy and loves to play. (Source: Linkous family)

Linkous and Xander live with their grandmother. One of Linkous’ jobs is to get her 50 pound brother into their car — which is not wheelchair-accessible.

Linkous said their system works now, but she’s worried about what will happen when Xander gets older and she graduates high school. She said she wants to go off to college, but she wants to make sure her brother is safe and able to go out and do the things he needs and wants to do.

She launched a fundraiser to buy her brother the van which will cost about $35,000. Donations are being collected through a GoFundMe account.

With help from a high school teacher, her campaign caught the attention of actor Michael Abbott Jr.

“I think she’s really worried about going away to college and Xander having some independence and ability to travel at his leisure,” Abbott said.

Last year, Abbott helped a Morristown teen in need of a wheelchair-accessible van. The actor’s efforts prompted donations from the public, including a sizeable gift from Justin Timberlake

“I’m fortunate enough to have a medium where I can get in touch with people,” he said.

Abbott, who’s on location filming the movie “Killers of the Flower Moon” directed by Martin Scorsese, said he’s touched by the boy and his sister back in his hometown.

He said Xander is a fighter.

Xander now weighs about 50 pounds, and Rylee has to carry him to the family car. She’s hoping a wheelchair accessible van will give him safety and freedom as he grows and after she goes to college. (Source: Linkous family)

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