LONDONDERRY — Bella Tucker's favorite color is blue. Soon, she'll be riding in a brand-new, deep-water blue pearl Dodge Grand Caravan, courtesy of the DeLuca Family of Dealerships of Andover.
The van was delivered to her Lantern Lane home last Thursday, on what would have been Bella's first day of school in fourth grade.
Bella, 9, a South Londonderry Elementary student, has been hospitalized since April 5 when a life-threatening illness, streptococcus pneumonia sepsis, resulted in a quadruple amputation. Two weeks ago, she was transferred from Boston Children's Hospital to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, also in Boston.
"She had her first outing (after being transferred) when we were able to bring her to Quincy Market," Bella's mom Selena Roarty said. "Wait until she sees this."
The van was made handicapped accessible by Ride-Away in Londonderry, a company that modifies vehicles for people with disabilities. Roger Lajeunesse, assistant general manager of Ride-Away, and driver Dawn Lessard delivered the van. They were met by Mary Beth Finn, the daughter of Bill and Kay DeLuca, and other family members, including Kay DeLuca.
"I got a phone call from my friend Shari Traub," Finn of Andover said. "Her daughter Haley knew of Bella from Phantom Gymnastics (in Hampstead)."
Finn said "Shari was just so undone over Bella," and she was hoping the DeLuca family might have some connections with General Motors or another manufacturer that would be willing to help the family.
"I told her I didn't think that the companies would be able to help," Finn said. "But I told her I would help to fundraise, thinking if we got 20 to 25 families to donate $1,000, we could get a van."
When Finn's parents heard of Bella's plight, Bill DeLuca said he would donate the vehicle. He sent his wife Kay and daughter out to find the right van for the family.
"Everyone in our family was just happy we are able to do it," Finn said. "We've had tragedies, but we've been lucky."
Ride-Away took out the middle row of seats to accommodate Bella's wheelchair and added a lightweight ramp that will make it easy to fold in and out of the van.
And that's not all. Joy and Steve Duncan, Shari and Peter Traub, Kirkwood Printing and Kirkwood Direct, all of Andover, donated money to insure and register the van. Debbie Hubbell, a family friend and coworker of Selena and Peter Tucker at JetBlue, was also there yesterday. She said she was overwhelmed by the community's generosity.
"Kiddie Academy in Windham is offering free preschool for Bella's sister Lola," Hubbell said. "And the Y in Londonderry is offering her brother Josh free after-school care three days a week to help."
Hubbell is looking for temporary housing for the family while their home is being renovated.
Just two weeks ago, a local team of businesses put the final truss on an addition to the home that is being donated in preparation for Bella's return. Roarty said Bella is in good spirits now that she can go on outings.
"With the van, we can take her for small trips, go to a movie and even bring her home for a day," she said.
After Spaulding, Bella will go to Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. The family is hoping she will be home for the holidays.
For more information about Bella and current news and fundraising, visit bellatucker.org.