Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Its a wonderful life

A terrible birth defect, but a girl with a warm heart, gumption and a beautiful smile.

Mixed with wonderful folks who cared enough to brighten a young girl's life equals a wonderful day in the life of  Celeste Juarez.

God bless all of you who made this girl's life a little bit better.

A ride for life


An overwhelmed 10-year-old girl looked from the stage in the gymnasium and told an assembly of her classmates how happy she was, to an uproarious applause.

Maybe part of the celebration was the promised ice cream sandwiches afterward, but students at Lone Star Elementary cheered as Celeste Juarez, a second-grader born with the extremely rare malformation condition phocomelia, leaving her with no legs and disfigured arms, received a donation a custom-built wheelchair and a lifetime supply of wheelchairs and mobility needs.

Up until Tuesday, Juarez had used a borrowed wheelchair, her family unable to afford one. A few like-minded individuals were not satisfied with that situation, and began to piece together the support and donations to build her not just one chair, but to make sure mobility is one thing she will never have to worry about.

Lone Star Elementary Principal Curtis Wubbena told the assembled students that sometimes, just like in the classroom, it’s all right to raise a hand and ask for help. And from that point he introduced all of the people who in some way contributed to giving the state-of-the-art wheelchair.

Peggy Townsend of the Townsend Rep Group heard of Celeste’s plight, and got to work. Townsend Rep Group supports medical retailers throughout the country and connects them with the disabled community.

“I knew who to contact in the business, and other dealers offered to help, no one flowed through though. She pulled at my heart strings,” Townsend said.

Rick Hayden did come through, followed by multiple other groups that built Celeste a custom ride all her own.

“Peggy called me and said they were looking for a nice used chair, and when she told me about Celeste, I said we can do better than that,” said Rick Hayden, Vice President of Colours ‘N Motion, Inc., of Corona, Calif., the international wheelchair manufacturing company that donated the chair.

Other participating groups in the ceremony included Communities in Schools of South Central Texas, Ana Calvo, Miss Wheelchair Texas, 2009; Todd Hargroder, president of Accessible Designs, Inc. of San Antonio donated E-Brakes—an electronically actuated brake system; and Britt Sitzes, branch manager of National Seating & Mobility out of Austin, who donated his expertise in the design of the chair to specifically fit Celeste and trained her on the use of it. Brad Stern of Supracor, Inc. of San Jose, Calif., donated a high-end therapeutic seat cushion for the chair. The chair even has colored floor lights she can use.

Calvo gave a short motivational speech, telling students of everything she does and can do despite her disability.

“I don’t have arms and I don’t have legs, but I don’t let that stop me,” she said. “I drive my own car. I water ski … hopefully I’ll be skydiving soon.”

Calvo, who works at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Houston invited Celeste to seek their orthopedic therapy.

“Hey guys, I’m really excited about having my new wheelchair,” Celeste Juarez told the audience, “I’m really, really excited because I’ve never had a wheelchair before,” she said, breaking into tears. “I’m really happy.”