Raising Hope, Helping Hearts 

The day after Christmas I posted on our Facebook page a story from a parent named Darlene describing the most recent tragedy and loss in her and her families lives. The devastation of a tornado swept through their family home leaving them with nothing. Their son Gabe who is bound to a wheel chair had to be cut out of there home by emergency crews. Thankfully everyone in the family was safe, unharmed and without a scratch.

Leaving them to spend the rest of the holidays in a hotel. Later emergency crews went where the family home once was and found Gabe's wheelchair, cleaned it up and brought it to the hotel where they have been staying and also passed Harvey and his wife Darlene there wedding album.

Gabe was recently in the hospital.... he is still smiling. The toy he is holding has been his favorite toy since he was 6 months old. Well, that was actually the 9th reincarnation! He wears them out!  Darlene thinks it was called a Discovery Ball. But, they no longer make them and his was lost to the tornado. If anybody sees one at a garage sale or thrift shop can you please think of Gabe.

During the storm Gabe had lost everything he owned including the families wheelchair  assessable vehicle that was also destroyed leaving Gabe confined in a hotel with no way to go out and for a child with sensory challenges and other special needs this can be so difficult.

Harvey Walden is a roofer by trade, and is also a volunteer with church groups and he is the local Boy Scout troop scout master.  He and Darlene have three children, 2 who are 16 and were adopted from Russia since they were almost 2....Russell and Kati. Gabriel is described by Darlene as "our miracle baby"  Gabe is 13 and has Angelman Syndrome. He's non verbal, has a seizure disorder, uses a wheelchair to get around, is a seeker, When I spoke to Darlene and Harvey they explained how Gabe is the absolute delight of their lives.

Gabe & Russell at  Gabriel's Garden

Gabe is a local celebrity. In 2007 (or maybe 08), Russ and Kati were frustrated they couldn't play on a typical playground with Gabe, so they started a fund, organized a group of people and raised money for an accessible playground. It's named Gabriel's Garden! So, now, in there little town, kids of all abilities can play side by side!

I haven't stopped thinking about Gabe and his family since hearing what happened. I had to contact Darlene to see if she had a fund set up and when I did she told me that she didn't have a GoFundMe set up and I got the feeling from her that they didn't want to ask anyone for anything. I wanted to do something special for her and her family. I decided this would be the best way. As a very large special needs community, I started to think that if everyone who could donated at least one dollar we can help this family. If you cannot donate I ask that you please share this link on your Facebook's and social media. If you are in groups or on pages on Facebook please share. Let's work together to put some magic back into their lives during the holidays.

Russell &  Kati just before the storm

This is how Darlene described her story to me...  

The storm came through on Wednesday, December 23. We were watching the weather reports on TV and were relieved when they cancelled the tornado warning for our area. The kids went to their rooms and Harvey and I continued watching TV. The weatherman said, "Oh, there looks to be a rotation forming right here" and pointed right at our community. I jumped up and said I'd go get the two older kiddos and Harvey ran to get Gabe. I didn't have time to do anything but grab Kati's wrists and hold her down. Winds were pulling her away from me. (And, did you know that the slight bruising on her wrists is the ONLY injury any of us sustained! God protected us that night! We are so very blessed!)

As Harvey got to Gabe's room, the ceiling and the room behind him we're collapsing onto him. He threw himself over Gabe to protect him.

Half a second later, it seems...it was over. I looked up and we had nothing over our heads. I could hear my oldest son, Russell, yelling he was ok and asking about us...but we couldn't get to each other for the debris. I couldn't hear Harvey or Gabe at all. The next several minutes were the worst of my life...not knowing if they were ok.

The EMS workers arrived and called out to us. They had found my husband and Gabe, and they were ok. They had to cut away the walls to get to them, but they didn't even have a scratch on them! Gabe was actually laughing when they got to him! He apparently likes chainsaws!

Our white lab dog, Chisum, somehow had made it through the debris to Gabe and would not leave his side! In fact one of the emergency workers thought he'd have to transport him in the ambulance with us.

We were taken to a local hotel that we now call home. smile emoticon The house we built and have lived in since 2000, is gone. There is nothing but rubble. Part of me is grieving the loss, but the other part of me is rejoicing that everything that matters to me is right here within my reach. I can reach out and touch my babies' faces. I can hold my husband's hand.

Since the storm, one of the emergency workers located Gabe's wheelchair, cleaned it up and brought it to us. Another arrived on Christmas day with our wedding photo album! We are likely going to be able to salvage some things...as long as mildew doesn't get to them before we do. But, things don't really matter anymore. They're not important and can be replaced.

As I've said before...my oldest two kids, my husband and I are fine. We could camp out in tents and be fine. Our needs are few. We have what we need. My greatest concerns are for Gabe. He can't process this. The upheaval is too much for him. The over stimulation...from the tornado, the chainsaws, the ambulance ride, the strange hotel room, new clothes that itch...all of that has him in a state of turmoil. He is swinging from agitation to boredom and back. He wants to sleep half the day then chew on hotel furnishings all night! He's usually a seeker when it comes to input, but right now, there's TOO much for him to process.


Donations can be made with PayPal directly to Gabe's family. If you are a sensory business and would like to donate a sensory tool to Gabe please contact me.