Matt Pellegrino at his home in Dracut. COURTESY PHOTO
Matt Pellegrino at his home in Dracut. COURTESY PHOTO

DRACUT -- Matt Pellegrino has never let his disability get in the way of his life.

When he was 18, Pellegrino, who has some weakness in his arms and cannot bear weight on his legs, spent a week in New Hampshire training to drive a van using all hand controls, while sitting in his wheelchair.

He plays Power Soccer in a Boston league for people who use electric wheelchairs. The avid Red Sox fan even traveled to Cooperstown and Niagara Falls on his honeymoon after donning a dapper tux for his wedding to wife Caitlin.

So when the couple found a charming mid-century ranch house in Dracut that was the starter home of their dreams, he wasn't about to let a few building inadequacies kill the deal.

Specifically, the entrance to the house was impossible to access using his wheelchair. The bathroom door wasn't wide enough for him to pass and even if he could, he wouldn't have been able to use the original shower or the sink.

Pellegrino, 28, a Tewksbury native who is the personal care program director at The Northeast Independent Living Program, contacted Alan Trebat, coordinator of the home modification loan program at Community Teamwork,, Inc. and found out he and Caitlin could get a zero-percent loan to modify the house and make it wheelchair accessible.

"We had it all set up, so once they found a house and were able to buy it, we were able to provide the funds before they moved in," Trebat said.


With a loan of about $29,000, Pellegrino and his wife, who met as students at Merrimack College, chose a contractor to install a wheelchair-accessible ramp from the mudroom's entrance to the back of the driveway.

"It used to be a step up to the mudroom and now it's completely even," he said.

The couple had the bathroom doorway pushed out by two feet and installed a handicap-accessible shower stall with a hand-held showerhead, as well as a sink that Matt can wheel straight up to and a bar by the toilet.

The house also has a living room, eat-in kitchen and three bedrooms, one of which the Pellegrinos are using as an office.

While most of the existing floors were hardwoods, the couple replaced a rug that would have gotten ripped up by the wheelchair with a tile floor, Pellegrino said.

"We bought the house in December, but we didn't move in with all the renovations February," he said.

The state-funded home modification loans CTI administers regionally range from zero to three percent depending on the owner's income, but the loan only has to be paid back if the house is sold, Trebat said.

"It helped so much, because we were already putting a lot of money down to buy the house and we'd be in financial dire straits if we had to have almost $30,000 more," Pellegrino said.

"We feel passionate about empowering people as much as possible throughout the process," Trebat said.