Tristan Knapp-Fisher, a life-long car lover, has dreamed of going to the world’s largest auto show in Las Vegas for as long as he can remember.
But Knapp-Fisher, 23, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease that attacks the body’s muscles. He has been in a wheelchair since he was about nine and requires 24-hour care, making it difficult for him to travel.
Knapp-Fisher isn’t able to travel on a regular plane, because passengers aren’t allowed to stay in their wheelchairs. Transferring out of the chair and checking it into the plane’s hold isn’t an option. “It’s an extension of his body,” mom Karen McCoy said.
It’s also too risky, since the chair could be damaged during the flight.
So his friends and family are fundraising to rent a private plane to get Knapp-Fisher to Sema, a four-day Las Vegas car show in November that brings together more than 70,000 people from the industry.
It’s the only way he’ll be able to make the trip. Knapp-Fisher’s wheelchair wouldn’t fit in an RV and the multi-day trip to Las Vegas would be too difficult with his medical needs.
They’re hoping to raise $27,000 to cover travel costs to get to the show. Since February, a fundraising page has raised more than $10,000. Even though the show is still a few months away, they’re starting to feel the pressure to start booking accommodation and the plane.
“We’re getting him there no matter what,” said Joe Semren, Knapp-Fisher’s boss at SHC Autographx, an auto store in Victoria. Semren owns the store with wife Nada Azouri, who started the fundraiser. SHC is donating $2 from every invoice between March 1 and Oct. 31 to the cause.
Knapp-Fisher has been running the business’s social media for the past three years, after visiting the shop to buy new tires for his van.
“He brought me the information on the wheels, and he was way ahead of the time,” Semren said. “Five years later, everybody’s buying that style that’s on his van.”
Semren was impressed with Knapp-Fisher’s car knowledge, so he agreed to let him manage the company’s Facebook page, as a volunteer at first. After a few months, Knapp-Fisher asked to be paid, and he’s been an employee ever since.
“It’s nice for me. Because of my disability, I’m quite limited, and it’s nice that I was able to do something like this,” Knapp-Fisher said.
McCoy traces her son’s love of cars to his toddler days. Several times a week, she would take him to a coffee shop where he had a view of a four-way stop.
“He would watch cars go for an hour at a time,” McCoy said. “And he got to know — even when he was first starting to speak — every car emblem. He’s just always loved cars.”
He goes to every car show in the area, and sometimes trips up owners because he knows so much about their cars, his mom said.
Knapp-Fisher is also an animal lover and has been organizing a fundraising walk every September to collect money for the B.C. SPCA for the past 12 years, raising $35,000 for the animal welfare non-profit. His family says now it’s his turn to be on the receiving end, so this year, they’ll be asking participants to donate to Knapp-Fisher’s trip.
“Every year, I see stuff on Facebook about [the Las Vegas auto show] and on certain car websites. You just can’t escape it,” Knapp-Fisher said. “And if you’re into vehicles, it’s the best place to go. It’s basically the best place in the world.”