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“Ruth” Voted Into National Disability Contest Semi-Finals

May 17, 2012, 4:31 PM HST · Updated May 17, 4:35 PM
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By Maui Now Staff

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Ruth with father Robert Benavides. Courtesy photo.

Nine-year-old Ruth Benavides of Kula has gained enormous voter support to win a wheelchair-accessible van through the National Mobility Awareness Month Local Hero Contest.

Votes are now closed for the contest but Ruth’s family said that she made it into the top 10% of entries with 12,624 votes, in part due to huge support from Mauians.

Maui Now broke the story on May 3 and it was subsequently picked up by several news outlets across Hawaii, which boosted awareness.

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Ruth lives in Kula with her parents, protea flower farmer Robert “Bobalou” Benavides and local artist Hallelujah Duncan. But she spent most of her years on the Big Island attending pre-school at both Waimea Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary School.

Ruth was diagnosed with developmental delay at an early age and it had become apparent to Ruth’s care team that loading her and her wheelchair separately was getting difficult as she continues to grow.

As a result, her family entered her as a Local Hero candidate to take a shot at winning a wheelchair-accessible van valued at approximately $40,000.

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Ruth and her family await to hear whether she will be named one of the nation’s three Local Heroes by phone on Monday, May 21.

“We want to thank everybody,said Ruth’s father Robert Benavides. “One of the best things about this was having all those people, all over the world, thinking about us every day. People voted for Ruth from 20 countries outside of the US.”

For updates on the status of “Ruth’s Ride,” visit her Facebook support page.

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