SA Man with Rare Condition Finds Freedom in Van Built By Cruising Kitchens

Dec. 10 “Built for Business” episode features UTSA student as he’s gifted an accessible van by San Antonio company

Xavier Sanchez is used to waiting.

Prior to COVID-19, he waited for his mom’s lunch break from work if he needed a ride home from his college courses. If he was out with friends, he waited until they were all ready to leave so that someone could drop him off at the end of the night. If he needed something from the grocery store or had a craving for Whataburger, he relied on his mom for a ride.

In the coming weeks that will all change. Now a senior at University of Texas at San Antonio, Sanchez was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency and bilateral fibular hemimelia, a rare birth defect that for him meant he had no hands or feet and only part of his arms and legs. When Cruising Kitchens president Cameron Davies learned about Sanchez from a crew member on Built for Business, the show the San Antonio food truck outfitter is filming, he knew immediately that he wanted to help.

Davies and his wife, Kaycee, invited Sanchez and his mom to the Cruising Kitchens shop near San Antonio International Airport and after a tour of the facility asked if they could retrofit and donate a van to Sanchez so that he could start driving on his own. That initial meeting and the work required to create the van will be featured in this week’s Built for Business episode, set to air Dec. 10 on MotorTrend.

“This van isn’t just a vehicle. It’s freedom,” Sanchez says. “It’s freedom, opportunities and experiences that I’ll be able to have thanks to Cameron and all of the guys and girls who helped build the van.”

The bright green vehicle is built so that Sanchez can use a ramp to drive his wheelchair right into the van. Voice activation is used throughout, a custom steering wheel allows for him to direct the car and technology makes it possible for him to use the gas pedal and breaks. Xavier was given the vehicle (plus one year of insurance) just before Thanksgiving and is learning how to drive it now so that he can pass his driver’s test and take his first solo trip in San Antonio.

“It was powerful,” Davies said. “He could have given up. His mom could have given up but for 21 years she has made sure Xavier has everything he needs and can get wherever he needs to go.”

Sanchez said he and his mom had looked into having a vehicle made before but were told it couldn’t be done. Even if something was possible, they were told, it would be the price of a Lamborghini—not something they could afford.

Cruising Kitchens typically outfits food trucks, trailers and other largescale vehicles for restaurants, universities and major companies (learn more about them here), but Davies says they’ve also found the skills required for truck builds transfer easily to crafting handicap accessible vehicles, wheelchairs and more.

Throughout the build process, Davies kept hearing Sanchez talk about how life might be when he graduates from college and looks for a job. The more Davies heard, the more he realized he didn’t want to see another company hire Sanchez first. So, he offered him a job in sales and Sanchez joined the team at Cruising Kitchens last week.

“He’s part of the family, not just part of the team,” Davies said. “When you meet him in person, you see there’s no handicap. He can do more things and (do them) quicker and better than most. The world needs more people like Xavier. He builds you up and he’s been a blessing.”

Sanchez said his mom has been his rock throughout life, encouraging him through multiple surgeries and holding him to the same expectations as every other kid when it came to schoolwork. His dad wasn’t involved much and having someone like Cameron step into his life as a role model has been a gift just as much as the vehicle. “He inspires me,” he said.

via San Antonio Mag