Overland Park & Leawood

July 15, 2014

LuLu, 4, needs a wheelchair-accessible van, so mom’s friend stepped in to raise money

Lunden Jensen was born with a rare brain malformation that has left her developmentally and physically disabled. Family friend Ann Butenas of Overland Park has made it her mission to help the family raise the money they need to buy a van. She started an online fundraiser on youcaring.com.

Four-year-old Lunden Jensen of Overland Park is a social butterfly. She likes to go to the park with friends and attend birthday parties. And she has a smile that can light up a room.

She was born with a rare brain malformation called lissencephaly that has left her developmentally and physically disabled. Lunden, or LuLu as she is affectionately called by her close family and friends, is legally blind and in a wheelchair. She can only say five words.

Unfortunately, Lunden’s ability to get out of the house and socialize with other kids has been sidelined now that she’s outgrown her stroller and her parents don’t have a wheelchair-accessible van.

So the family’s longtime friend Ann Butenas, of Overland Park, has made it her mission to help them raise the money they need to buy a van. She started an online fundraiser at youcaring.com/Lunden.

“A light bulb went off,” Butenas said. “I saw a lot of fundraisers on social media and it seems like they really take off. So I said, ‘Erin let me do this for you,’ and in the first week it raised $8,000.”

The site has now raised more than $14,500 for the Jensen family, but it’s still a long way from the $42,000 they need to purchase the specific van that they need.

The van would make life much easier for Erin to get Lunden out of the house. Right now, Lunden’s wheelchair is too heavy for her to lift on her own. And since David works up to 16 hours a day to support the family, Erin frequently finds herself alone and home-bound with Lunden.

“She’s super social and there’s been a decline in the activities she can participate in,” Erin Jensen said. “She can’t go to birthday parties. Her experiences are getting smaller.”

Doctors told her parents Erin and David Jensen that she wouldn’t live long past birth. But Lunden has continued to defy the odds.

The Jensens have poured all of their financial resources into caring for Lunden. They’ve sold one of their cars and moved in with Erin’s parents so that they could rent out their home in Olathe. They only recently paid off the NICU hospital bill they amassed four years ago when Lunden was born.

But despite all of their efforts, they have come up short when it comes to providing Lunden transportation. That’s when the Jensens reluctantly decided to accept outside help.

“We’ve gladly given up everything for this kid; our home and one of our cars,” Erin Jensen said. “We are determined that people will know that kiddos like her have value.”

Butenas said donating is easy. People can simply go to http://www.youcaring.com/Lundenand make a donation in any amount they would like. Donations can be made up to Aug. 14.

“She is very appreciative,” Butenas said of Erin Jensen. “She doesn’t want to ask for help.”

Erin Jensen agrees that it’s been difficult to ask for help from others. But she knows she is doing exactly what is needed for her daughter, who has touched so many lives.

“We are just really grateful that people love Lunden just like we do,” Erin Jensen said. “That is what has been so humbling for us. And we are thankful to Ann, for giving us that final push so that we could help Lunden.”

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