Paralyzed, but still on the road

Body shop owner Domenic Nigro works the controls with Dillon Krapf in South Philadelphia yesterday.

When Dillon Krapf, 28, who is paralyzed from the waist down, wanted to install hand controls in his Subaru hatchback two years ago so that he could drive, the South Philadelphia man had to travel to the far Northeast suburbs.

“When I got the system put in, it really did change my life,” said Krapf, who broke his spine three years ago when he fell out of a tree. “The independence — it was like turning 16 all over again. It gives you the feeling you can do whatever you want and go wherever you want.”

“But when I was doing the research to get one installed, I realized there was really not much here,” he said.

“It’s because it’s not profitable,” said Domenic Nigro, 35, of Nigro’s Auto Body in South Philadelphia. “You don’t do this to make money, you do this because you care about a cause.”

Nigro says his attention was drawn to this particular cause when his friend, Frank Buoniconti, was paralyzed. “I realized it was really hard because driving gives you so much freedom,” he said.

After going through a certification and insurance process, his shop is the only one in Philadelphia to install hand control systems, Nigro said. He donates 10 percent of the profits from each installation to the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.

Nigro said he is inspired by his father. “He taught me that everything’s about taking care of customers, doing things right and making sure to treat people well.”


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