GOSHEN — The Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County announced that its long-awaited bus has arrived, ready to provide transportation to any child involved in the organization.  

The new bus, which has been in the works for nearly a year, offers seating for 22 as well as full handicapped accessibility.

The project was made possible by a donation from the Theda and Tamblin Clark Smith Family Foundation.

“We’ve had issues in the past where we have had kids that we have wanted to be able take on a trip that have earned it, and we’ve had to ask someone else to transfer them and they couldn’t go with everybody else,” said Matt Fischer, chief advancement officer.

The organization took possession of the bus in a ceremony Monday. 

“Nothing breaks my heart more than to know that not all children can get on a bus and go to a zoo or go to a South Bend Cubs game or to do service for our community, and now we will be able to take everybody,” Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Kevin Deary said.

In years past, buses for the Boys & Girls Clubs had only 12 seats and were unable to transport handicapped individuals.

“This bus has the ability to seat anyone whether they be in a wheelchair or otherwise, any kind of disability, all ADA accessible,” Fischer added.

The bus was designed by Turtle Top, a New Paris-based manufacturer specializing in small to mid-sized buses, with help from Eby Ford, which made the chassis, and Scott Signs, which created the graphics for the bus.

“For us to be a part of this is very exciting,” President/CEO of Turtle Top Rob Cripe said. “It’s a big collaborative effort, and we are honored to be a small piece of it.”

Keys to the bus were handed over to Deary by Cripe in a ceremony Monday afternoon followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony, tour of the new bus and tour of the Goshen Boys & Girls Clubs building.

Through Turtle Top, multiple members of the Cripe family gave financially to the project as well, including company owners Bob, Betty, Dick, Carolyn, Vicki and Rob.

“This is be a countywide van for all children of the club,” Deary said. “This gift will be for all children so we can take them to Florida to do some clean up after a hurricane or to Washington, D.C., wherever we go, this will be used to make sure that all children are included.”

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