September 24, 2023
Features | Herald-News

Features | Herald-News

Joliet teen donates $5,000 to her friend towards a new van through the VING Project

Pictured from left is Lawson Sizemore, Paula Wetstein, Marlene Sizemore and Tricia Wetstein. Last Friday, Tricia surprised Lawson with a donation of $5,000 from the VING Project to help toward the purchase of a van.

Tricia Wetstein recalled the first time she met her friend Lawson Sizemore.

She was just 2 and he was 4.

Even then, the fact he had Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type A, a disorder that affects the peripheral nerves, was already apparent.

“”When I first met him, he only had arm braces,” Tricia said. “And he could still walk and run and everything. I’ve seen him go from a small wheelchair to a big wheelchair.”

Lawson had surgery to fuse his spine this summer to correct his scoliosis. But the family van broke down the night before his surgery.

A family friend Betty Coady of Chicago, is raising money through GoFundMe to help buy a newer, more reliable conversion van to transport Lawson and his wheelchair.

So last Friday, Tricia surprised Lawson with a donation of $5,000 from the VING Project to help toward the purchase of that van.

The VING Project is a national movement that give teens an opportunity to give someone in need a surprise gift of $1,000, according to a news release from VING.

“On the day of the surprise, they told me they raised the donation to $5,000,” Tricia said.

The VING project, a division of the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, which began in 2014, has received a surge in entries since the pandemic began, the release also said.

It has delivered $250,000 in one month, double the amount the movement had done to date, the release also said.

Tricia said her mother Paula Wetstein, who is best friends with Lawson’s mother Marlene Sizemore, had heard about the VING Project during an episode of the Kelly Clarkson Show.

Lawson is highly involved at Joliet West High School, where both Shorewood teens attend, with athletics and as the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, Tiger Tales, so he really needs dependable transporation, Tricia said.

So Tricia decided to submit an nomination video with the VING Project.

“It took a long time to get a really good video,” Tricia said. “I get nervous really easily, so I had to keep redoing it. I wanted it to be a really good video.”

Hearing that Lawson was accepted for the donation made Tricia feel very happy, she said.

"Law is such an incredible person," Tricia said. "He and Marlene are some of the kidnest people I've ever met. They've just been through so much. When other people are in need, they give to them. They really need this van."

To donate toward Lawson’s van on GoFundMe, visit

For more information on VING Project, visit

Denise  Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.