Jonathan was born at 24 weeks and spent his first 6 months in the hospital. Because of his prematurity, he was diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), which resulted in him also being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, cortical vision impairment and feeding issues that require a GJ tube. On the GMFCS scale that ranks severity of cerebral palsy (1-5), Jonathan is a 5. He will always rely on a wheelchair for mobility, full lift and positioning by a caregiver. Please read what Jonathan’s mom has to share: 

“As a parent of a child with special needs, you pray that your child feels loved and included when he’s away from you. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is trust your child with another individual and it’s even more difficult when your child has special needs, is non-verbal and relies upon others for everything. Letting go of that need to be there to help him through everything has been difficult this first year of Kindergarten, but I’m trying. My biggest desire for my child is for him to know he’s loved by his Creator, by his family and by his peers. Part of this includes him feeling comfortable and fitting in.

Typically developing children his age are usually able to climb into their own car seats and in some cases, buckle themselves in. For Jonathan, it’s not. When I load Jonathan into my van, he’s a full lift into a 5 point harness car seat into the van. While it’s not the most important reason to require a wheelchair accessible vehicle, the idea of not having his peers see him handled like a toddler or infant is important. There’s also the safety consideration for Jonathan. Right now, he weighs about 40lbs. As he’s gotten bigger, I’ve been able to adjust to handling him, but it’s getting trickier with his weight gain (about 5 lbs in the last 6 months) and his feeding tube and venting tube lines. He is fed about 20 hours per day, so he is almost always hooked up. I’m consistently worried that I’m going to catch his feeding tube extension on his chair. It’s happened a few times already. If his tube comes out or bursts from tugging, it requires a trip to the downtown hospital ASAP.

The practical consideration with acquiring a wheelchair accessible van is that Jonathan’s chair will soon outgrow our van. We have less than half an inch left in the rear of a our van once Jonathan’s wheelchair is placed inside. As Jonathan grows bigger, his wheelchair will widen as well. It will be extremely difficult to transport him, along with his two younger brothers if we do not have space for his chair.

The reality for our family is this: as Jonathan grows, our vehicle will have to change. Our current van is 15 years old and becoming more tired. We are hoping that we can keep it going for 6-12 more months. We simply can not afford a wheelchair accessible vehicle without financial assistance from organizations like yours. To have a reliable vehicle that could safely transport all of our children would be life-changing for us. We understand that this is a large thing to ask for, but I’ve also resisted applying for assistance from Variety in the past because I’ve known that this would be a large, pressing need for us in the future.

Jonathan is a happy child who loves to interact with his peers. He has the sweetest giggle that is infectious because you never know what’s going to set off a giggle-fest. He loves music, being silly, taking walks outside and swimming. He loves to go to the park, take walks and simple things, like going to the store with mom. My favorite of Jonathan’s qualities is his joy in life. His smile can light up any room.”

When Variety KC received this letter, we knew we had to help – and we knew that Variety partners would want to help Johnathan! Having a safe vehicle that fits children and equipment is an absolute must! Transportation means access to medical services, to community involvement, and to inclusion!  Help us to help Johnathan by donating in his name today – www.varietykc.org/donate/

Thank you for being part of the #inclusionrevolution!