Seventeen-hundred local heroes entered the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association-sponsored contest. More than a million people voted for their heroes.
There were three winners and one was from the Chicago area.
Frankfort resident Ron Miner won a 2012 Toyota Sienna BraunAbility Rampvan three months ago.
"At first I thought it was one of my friends calling me up and joking with me, going, 'Hey you won the van,' and I'm going, 'Yeah, who is this really?' Well, when he explained, 'Hi, I'm David Hubbard from NMEDA and you are one of the winners,' I was very, very shocked," said Miner.
Miner, a former Army medic, became disabled on a training mission in the '70s.
"Both my legs got busted up in an injury in Alaska," Miner said. "I've had over 25 surgeries...I have a spinal cord injury, I have spinal cord degeneration and I have artificial joints."
After becoming disabled, Miner's life changed.
"I became a fat guy in a wheelchair," he said. "I went through a bad divorce, I lost my kids, I lost my house."
Miner then decided to turn his life around.
"I lost weight. I become the wheelchair bodybuilding champion of the world. I became seven-time shot put and powerlifting champion in the seven years and now I've used what I learned to coach others," said Miner.
Miner was also vice president of a local veterans group and volunteered at a VA hospital.
Miner got his $40,000 wheelchair van at the end of August from NMEDA's representative Dave Hubbard.
"He did a lot of things that were what you'd call inspirational for himself, but then stopped looked around and decided other people needed help and reached out," Hubbard said.
"My old van was not reliable," said Miner. "I would be driving to go coach and it break down cause it has 160,000 miles on it. You're kind of stuck. Being in a wheelchair with a broken van is not good thing. With the new van, I have no worries when I'm on the road. It's a much smoother-driving van."
NMEDA's 2013 Local Heroes contest details will come out in February.
For more information go to: www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com