K.L.’s going to Vegas! On Thursday afternoon, Kenneth “K.L.” Cleeton posted a video to Twitter of his mother pulling into the driveway of his family home, behind the wheel of a brand new, customized Chevrolet Traverse.
The vehicle represents the fruition of 15 months of fundraising on the part of Veronica Brill. Her “Campaign to Stack K.L.” raised $53,231, with Bill Perkins throwing in another $25,000. This brick of cash was enough to buy the new van, and do the extensive refit required to meet K.L.’s medical requirements.
Diagnosed as a child with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, K.L. retained feeling throughout his body but is unable to move from the neck down. A small amount of finger mobility allows him to operate an electric wheelchair. However, long-distance travel has largely been ruled out by the prohibitive demands and costs of travel. The new van — and the trailer which will soon be joined to it — solves many of these logistical problems.
With the prompt delivery of the car, the odds just got a lot better for anyone betting on K.L. hitting up the Vegas strip for the WSOP in September.
The video Cleeton posted is delightful. His smile, and his father’s delighted laugh when the van pulls up is internet magic. So is his mother’s smile when he rolls up the automatic ramp and joins her in the vehicle.
In the video, he is wearing a Superman shirt patterned with the American flag. The whole thing feels like freedom. I can’t wait to see the fleets from Route 66.
How we got here, and how K.L. will get to Vegas
In 2018, K.L. rolled into the WSOP as one of Daniel Negreanu‘s stake horses that year. His run was one of the highlights of that year’s Main Event. He was accompanied by his father, who manipulated the cards for his son and cut his bets out from the top of K.L.’s growing chip stack. It was the story that put Cleeton’s name on the map in poker.
Ultimately, he came 917th in the Main Event, cashing for $16,024. But this remains his only live cash.
His challenge isn’t just the logistics of moving a bulky wheelchair, but the additional equipment that comes with it. Then there is the process of finding wheelchair-accessible hotels (not a guarantee in the U.S.) and hoping that their advertising in this regard is not misleading. All of this is on top of the usual hassle of multi-day trips with at least two people — packing, suitcase wrangling, deciding who picks the music, etc…
The old van that took him to Vegas in 2018 just about serves for his more workaday activities, but doing the run to Vegas from his home in Illinois again just wasn’t workable.
The new van and trailer make much of his poker career more practicable. All K.L. needs now is for everyone to get their vaccines so we can all get back to poker-as-usual.
Eric Harkins, who is involved in putting together the trailer, tweeted under the video.
“Congratulations!!!!” Harkins wrote. “That’s awesome (and special thanks again to @bp22 and @Angry_Polak)! Time for me to get the trailer portion underway. I’ll contact your dad tomorrow for his input.”
A man, a van, and Brill’s plan
The bottom of the Chevy has been lowered to add the necessary headroom and keep the tilt of the automatic ramp manageable. This involves adding weight and moving structurally important parts of the car around, so reinforcement also had to be added. Plus the whole thing needs to be built with durability in mind, since replacing a van like this in a nation without universal healthcare is prohibitively expensive. Or at least it is prohibitively expensive if you don’t have Veronica Brill in your corner.
Having interviewed K.L. in 2020, Brill found that the situation did not sit well with her. So she decided to step in and see if she could do something about it. The campaign was premised on K.L. getting too big for his boots. Brill needed to get him to Vegas to take his chips and put him in his place.
All it took was fifteen months, a GoFundMe, and a roast of K.L.
The roast featured an impromptu appearance by Phil Hellmuth, and a fiscally irresponsible tweet from Johnny Vibes, both of which contributed to pushing the GoFundMe over its target.
Brill did a celebratory video yesterday for her YouTube channel. She posted it on Twitter with the caption: “KL finally got his van!! Thank you to everyone who donated!!”
Featured image source: Twitter