TARRYTOWN, N.Y. When Paula Cloutier, 52, arrived at the Double Tree Hotel in Tarrytown Thursday afternoon to have lunch with members of the Rotary clubs, she was surprised to find more than thirty people waiting for her.
The lifelong Tarrytown resident, who has had her two legs amputated due to diabetes and has been practically confined to her house, was even more startled when she received an electrical wheelchair on the spot, a donation from the Rotary clubs.
That was a lot bigger than I expected, said Cloutier, a former nurse who worked 22 years at St. Cabrini Nursing Home, in Dobbs Ferry.
The event started with John McFadden, president of the Elmsford Rotary Club, addressing the attendees, among them Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and councilman Kevin Morgan, a member of Elmsford Rotary Club.
Then Cloutier spoke, telling the others that she had one son and that she lost her first leg in 2007 and her second in June this year.
I dont have too much more to say, she said, tears wetting her eyes.
Until that moment, the wheelchair remained hidden from her. She only knew about it when Morgan drove it inside the room. Cloutier then ventured a trip to the lobby and back, insecurely maneuvering it between tables.
I will have to play a little bit with it, she said.
The electrical wheelchair belonged to Harold Roth, a former police surgeon for the Greenburgh Police who died in 2008.
Its a good pleasure that I am able to help out, said Roths son Warren, an attorney and Rotary member.
Matt Gullotta, a member of the Ossining Rotary Club who knew Cloutiers brother Darren, was the one who brought her case to the Rotary clubs, along with Morgan.
The biggest thing that I love about her is that she has courage and she gives all of us inspiration, Gullotta said.
The Rotary is now organizing a fundraising on Sept. 13 for the construction of a ramp in Cloutiers house.
I am going to be able to get out of my apartment, to be able to use this nice little thing, Cloutier said, pointing to the wheelchair.
Cloutier's fiancé Keith Lasaponaro, 50, said that he was proud of her strength.
This girl is the toughest girl Ive ever met in my life, he said.
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