LEBANON, Va. (WJHL) – Riley Wyatt is an 18-year-old from Lebanon, Virginia with muscular dystrophy. The disease causes weakness in the muscles and limits his mobility.
From a young age, Riley was told there were many things he would never be able to do, including driving. However, those comments only motivated him to get his driver’s license.
“And they’ve always told me that I’ll never be able to drive, you know, and that’s what has pushed me all to try to do,” said Wyatt.
Wyatt was diagnosed with Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy when he was a few years old, resulting in him using a wheelchair for mobility. Despite this, Wyatt has been driving for most of his life.
“I used to go help my uncle on the farm, and he would let me drive the tractor. And then I would drive the lawnmower around at the house. So I’ve been driving everything since I was little.”
Miranda Herbert, Riley’s aunt and caretaker, said his physical therapist was one of the first people to support Wyatt’s desire to drive.
“She asked him ‘do you want to drive?’ and he’s like, ‘yeah I’ve drove my whole life,'” said Herbert. “She’s like, ‘well, I will be behind you 100% if this is something you want to do.’”
Wyatt’s physical therapist recommended the Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence (DRCE) in Columbus, Ohio to help Wyatt get the training he needed to be able to drive. Wyatt and his family have made trips up to Ohio for Wyatt to train.
Herbert said that despite the Electronic Mobility Control system Wyatt needs to be able to drive, the process to earn his license is the same as for anyone else.
“Whenever he was underage, we had to make sure that he had enough training behind the wheel,” said Herbert. “Of course, like a normal driver’s license. He just has to have the advanced technology to drive.”
After Wyatt receives his driver’s license, the family will need to get a vehicle fitted with technology that will allow him to drive.
“In order to get a van ready for Riley, we would need to have a ramp installed,” said Herbert. “We would need to have a locking system so that he will be secure in the driver’s seat. And an Electronic Mobility control. And that would be what they’re working with him right now to make sure that he gets the appropriate mobility controls at the driver’s seat.”
Herbert said the family has chosen to set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of the van.
“But altogether, it’s going to cost at least $80,000 for a vehicle that Riley will be able to drive,” said Herbert. “And that’s one reason that we set up a GoFundMe to be able to raise some of that and get him a head start.”
A lot of time and effort has gone into Wyatt’s journey to hit the roads. His friends and family said they are extremely proud of him.
“It’s just a big inspiration and it shows that anything’s possible in his life,” said Jody Smith, Riley’s best friend.
“Watching him grow and learn these things has really been amazing to watch,” said Whitley Johnson, Riley’s cousin.
“I’m proud of him and well, I always had a little reservation about what he could accomplish, but he could do anything just about within reason,” said Glenn Herbert, Riley’s grandfather and caretaker.
Wyatt said he already has plans for when he is able to drive.
“First, I won’t have to sit at the house, I can leave when I want to leave,” said Wyatt. “Second, I can get a job somewhere else that pays better. And then hopefully, later on, me and my buddies are gonna take a big road trip out west.”
Wyatt is scheduled to test for his license at the end of the month.