Raffle pays off for Peyton

Thomas Peyton (left), grand prize winner of Eastern Long Island Hospital’s recent car raffle, will trade in his prize, a 2010 Jeep Patriot Sport from Mullen Motors, toward a specially equipped Chrysler minivan. With Mr. Peyton are (front row from left) his wife, Carolyn; ELIH Auxiliary past president Nora Busch; (back row) Auxiliary raffle co-chair Pat Rushin; and Rich and Bill Mullen of Mullen Motors.

Thomas Peyton, 68, is a somewhat frequent user of medical services at Eastern Long Island Hospital, which he thinks has treated him well since a 1999 accident left him in a wheelchair. His desire to give something back to the hospital prompted him to buy two tickets for its annual fundraising raffle.

The tickets, which he and his wife, Carolyn, purchased for $50 each, turned out to be a good investment. Mr. Peyton won the raffle last week, choosing a new vehicle as an alternative to the $10,000 cash prize.

The prize offered was a 2010 Jeep Patriot Sport but Mullen Motors, which provides the car for the raffle, is working with Mr. Peyton to arrange a swap so he can credit the Jeep toward the purchase of a Chrysler minivan custom fitted with the equipment the paraplegic needs. The floor will be dropped 10 inches to accommodate his wheelchair and a ramp and electric door, along with hand controls, will be installed, he said.

The Jeep will make for a sizeable down payment on the estimated $55,000 he needs for the customized minivan. “This is a heck of a bounce,” he said of the estimated $20,000 credit he expects to get. That’s a down payment he wouldn’t have been able to swing on his own, he said.

Mullen Motors personnel are handling the paperwork and will arrange for a minivan to be properly equipped in Illinois and then shipped to Southold, Mr. Peyton said. The people at Mullen Motors are “so wonderful,” he said, noting that they had come to service his current van from time to time and often refused to take payment for their work.

The Peytons’ current Chrysler minivan is nine years old and has more than 100,000 miles on it.

“It’s starting to come apart,” Mr. Peyton said. “I’d be using tape to keep things going.”

Although Mr. Peyton had forgotten about the raffle ticket purchases, his wife remembered.

“I think we’re going to win,” she told him on May 10, the day of the drawing.

But when he got the call from the hospital, he said, he thought they were calling with blood test results.

Mr. Peyton thinks his accident — falling about 10 feet from a ladder — is a bit ironic. He served in the Army Airborne Corps, rode a motorcycle as a member of the Southampton Police Department and his own bike in his free time, and climbed poles for a part-time job installing microwave dishes without ever having an accident.

That a 10-foot fall robbed him of his ability to walk was at first a blow he thought he’d never get over, he said. But with encouragement of his wife, who is a physical therapist with Saundra Perry’s office in Southold, he has become very active again. Now that they’re about to have a new van, he said, his wife is talking about a trip to Florida.

The old van served him well. Speaking of the freedom he found when he first got it, Mr. Peyton said he’d given up hope and then, “The next thing you know, I was off and running.”

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