Fundraiser To Help Replace Stolen Van


ST. LOUIS — Having a broken neck as the result of a 1985 motorcycle accident that left him a quadriplegic has not prevented Steve Foelsch from taking command of his life. Now, his family and friends hope to put Foelsch literally in the driver’s seat by holding a fundraiser that will help pay for a new, specially equipped van. Foelsch could use the van to get to his jobs at the Starkloff Disability Institute and at Maryville University, where he teaches two classes as an adjunct instructor in the University’s rehabilitation services program.

The fundraiser is set for 6 – 10 p.m., Friday, Aug. 10, at the Stratford Inn Ballroom, located at 800 South Highway Drive in Fenton, across the street from the Chrysler plant and nearby Maryville University’s Southwest County Center, located at 964 South Highway Drive. Tickets are $20 and include an all-you-can-eat dinner of pizza, pasta and salad; an open bar, disc jockey entertainment, Mouse Races, a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle. Tickets will be available at the door or in advance by calling Donna Foelsch at (314) 963-4498 or e-mailing her at Also, donations can be made to the “Steven Foelsch Contribution Handicap Van Account” at any Bank of America location.

Steve Foelsch, 42, of St. Louis, hopes the evening’s festivities will raise about $40,000. The proceeds would cover the purchase of the van and the cost of installing a wheelchair lift and other modifications. The fundraiser became necessary, Foelsch said, when his red 1987 Ford cargo van was stolen in March from a parking space near his Cupples Station loft apartment in downtown St. Louis. “I think it was taken more for the $10,000 wheelchair ramp than anything else,” he remarked. The van has not been found and Foelsch has given up hope that it will be.

It’s one of the few times in the 22 years since his life-changing accident that Foelsch has admitted to anything being a lost cause. He considers himself fortunate that he had good medical insurance to pay his bills and that he had a good support system of family and friends. After attending community college for three years, Foelsch enrolled in journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. “I promptly came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life banging away at a keyboard,” he said. “I then decided to become a political scientist where I was exposed to some of the best ideas and some of the worst writing I have ever experienced. After counting three comas, one colon and two semicolons in one sentence, not to mention a couple of ‘therefores’ and ‘aforementioneds,’ I quickly switched to ancient history.”

Foelsch earned an undergraduate degree in history and anthropology, and a master’s degree in education, both from the University of Missouri, and, in 1995, was ready to enter the workforce. The workforce, however, was not very welcoming. “I didn’t have much success with several job interviews but I could go on and on about how and why Hannibal lost the Second Punic War without losing a battle in 15 years,” Foelsch quipped. “So I went the route of most past, present and future gym coaches and decided to get a teaching certificate.”

Foelsch earned certificates that qualified him to teach social studies and Spanish. But even after returning to the St. Louis area, he found teaching opportunities scarce. “I had one St. Louis public school HR person suggest that I substitute teach for a year and see ‘if a person in my situation can deal with working in an urban educational environment.'”

Foelsch’s luck turned dramatically in the late summer of 2004 when he met Colleen Starkloff while voting at his local polling station .At the time, Colleen Starkloff and her husband, Max were co-directors of Paraquad, a local agency that serves people with disabilities. Since that time, the Starkloffs have left Paraquad to form the Starkloff Disability Institute. Foelsch said Colleen Starkloff gave him some books that prompted him to look at his condition in a whole new light. “I started to realize that my disability was much more of a social condition, rather than a medical condition,” he remarked. “I can really dig these authors because they weren’t talking about, ‘Oh, what a tragedy; everyone stares and points at me; I can’t do this or they won’t let me do that.'”

Colleen Starkloff said Foelsch’s passion for advocacy convinced her to hire him at the Institute. “I was looking for teachers with disabilities who were interested in disability rights whom I could interest in helping me design and teach courses in the field of disability,” she said. Starkloff added that Foelsch was primarily responsible for setting up the Disability Studies Library, which is housed at the Starkloff Disability Institute. “It was acquired to assist the Institute staff in building the most up-to-date curricula in disability history, laws, advocacy, communication skills, accessibility measuring and service delivery strategies for our students at Maryville,” said Starkloff, who also is an adjunct instructor in Maryville’s rehabilitation services program.

Foelsch relishes his role as disability rights advocate and instructor. “To know that I am a part of the largest minority in the United States takes away feelings of isolation,” he said. “To view the subject of disability as a civil rights and human rights issue removes the apologetic feelings I would have when I caused a big disturbance getting into a badly designed bus. I don’t have to be a Tiny Tim or a Super-Crip. … I am a citizen, a citizen with rights, a citizen who votes.”

Maryville University, founded in 1872, is a private, coeducational institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,300 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Midwest, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers by offering programs that integrate liberal arts with professional studies.

Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.