Barbourville woman needs your vote in quest for special van

An oak tree that now stands  in Cat Rhoden Goguen’s front yard started out as a small seedling, but now towers more than 20 feet tall.

The tree, which was given to Goguen as a Greenleaf Award winner when she was a teacher, signifies the impact that she made on her students’ lives.

Now, Goguen is hoping to gain her community’s support in her quest to win a special van that will improve her mobility, and change her life.

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Several years ago, she was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, an inherited disorder of the peripheral nervous system characterized by progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body. Currently incurable, this disease is one of the most common inherited neurological disorders affecting approximately 1 in 2,500 people.

cat goguen“Most people haven’t heard of it, even though it is one of the more common genetic disorders. It affects the peripheral nerve. The signal to the muscle is faulty, and so the muscle wastes away gradually,” she said. The disease has affected Goguen’s legs to the point where she must use a scooter when moving around.

Currently, she relies on a special lift on the outside of her car that she uses. “Unfortunately, I can’t operate the lift on my own,” Goguen said, something that limits her ability to be fully independent.

Now, she has the chance to win one of four specially-equipped vehicles that would allow her to get around without assistance.

Goguen is one of nearly 1,000 contestants nationwide that are seeking votes through the National Mobility Awareness Month contest.

National Mobility Awareness Month is dedicated to showing the world how people with disabilities can live active, mobile lifestyles. Teamed with national spokespeople, Mike Savicki and Ashley Lauren Fisher, we support and utilize the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) network of members to help educate the public.

Ironically, Goguen voted for another Kentuckian in last year’s contest, who actually was one of the winners. When she saw that the contest was open again this year, she decided to enter.

“I kept seeing postings on their Facebook that it was time to enter. I talked to my cousin in Ohio and she said I should try,” she said, adding that this year, four vehicles will be given away.

Goguen said her success in the competition hinges initially on how many public votes she gets. In order to move on to the final competition, she must be among the top ten percent of vote-getters in the contest.

“You don’t have to have the most votes, but if there are 1,000 people entered, you have to be in the top 100,” she said, adding that once the voting is complete and the top 10 percent are determined, the winner is determined by a panel of judges.

goguen 2At that point, the judges will consider either the video or story that each contestant submitted. “You could either do a two minute video or a 400 word story,” Goguen said, adding that she opted for the video.

Right now, Goguen is concentrating on getting as many votes as she can.

“If you don’t get enough votes, then it doesn’t matter about the video or story,” she said.

As of Thursday afternoon, nearly three weeks into the contest, Goguen had just shy of 1,900 votes, with a goal of 2,500 by early next week.

Voting will continue through May 9, she said, explaining that she is thankful for the votes she has but hoping for even more.

“People have been voting faithfully, but we just need more of them. Each week we have been getting more votes…,” she said. “It is hard to get the word out.”

Goguen has taken her appeal for votes to Facebook and other social media in hopes of spreading the word, adding that many of her former students have taken the task of vote getting to heart. “They are really hard workers, and that makes me feel really good. That is one reason that I come to this tree. It is meaningful to me that they care enough, not just to vote once, but to vote every day.”

As Goguen explained, everyone can cast a vote every day, and can earn the chance to cast a bonus vote by correctly answering a question.

Voting is easy by visiting On the website, there is a “Vote Now” link. Visitors to the site may either register to vote through their Facebook account, Google Plus, Linkedin, or by creating an account. Voting is free, Goguen noted.

Once you are on the voting page, going for the bonus vote is very important, she noted, adding that she is optimistic about reaching her goal of being in the top ten percent.

“That is ambitious, but with 43 days left, we have to pick up the speed. But I think we will,” she said, adding that she hopes everyone who votes will encourage all their family members and friends to vote also.