PALM HARBOR – December is a month for giving, and not just toys, electronics and gift cards.
For one Palm Harbor family, a gift delivered less than a week before Christmas could have life-changing effects.
On Wednesday, Dec 19, at Leo’s Restaurant on U.S. 19, members of the Rotary Club of Palm Harbor, in conjunction with the Tarpon Springs-based nonprofit group Wheelchairs 4 Kids, donated a custom adaptive tricycle to Eric Towell, a 7-year-old with a genetic brain disorder who uses a motorized wheelchair to get around.
The trike, which was purchased through Wheelchairs 4 Kids using $1,600 in Rotary donations, is designed to provide more mobility while also helping to improve leg strength, flexibility and other exercise benefits, according to the Wheelchairs 4 Kids program coordinator, Jeannie Bohn.
“Insurance won’t pay for therapy trikes, but this is one of the best ways to exercise their legs,” Bohn explained. The group also provides wheelchair lifts for vehicles, ramps and minor home repairs, all free of charge.
“We use grants and work with local charities and organizations, and we talk directly to physical therapists to find out what we need, all the details,” Bohn said. “When we received this application, we reached out to the Palm Harbor Rotary and said a kid requested a trike and we’d like to sponsor him, and that was it.”
“The board decides in November which charities to support, and we did some research and came back to vote in December,” Rotary of Palm Harbor President Randy Nilsson said prior to the trike presentation. “Within 24 hours, we got an email about this young family, and it was a no-brainer. We unanimously agreed to do this.”
As a steady rain fell outside, Nilsson told the room full of Rotarians, Chamber of Commerce members and media: “This is really how God works. It doesn’t get much better than this at the holidays.”
Indeed, after Bohn and fellow program coordinator Erin Wilson steered the new three-wheeler into the room and presented it to Eric, Russ Towell, the youngster’s father, was overcome with emotion.
“We’re very grateful … it’s very emotional,” he said as he kissed his son’s head and wiped away tears. “He doesn’t speak much — mostly he just says I love you. But I know he is happy about this.”
After Bohn and Wilson helped Towell strap Eric into his new trike, the father wheeled his son around the dining room, and the joy on the young boy’s face was apparent.
As Towell continued to kiss his son’s forehead and whisper to the boy, he spoke about how it felt to be on the receiving end of such generosity.
“You wonder about people sometimes, and then something like this happens,” he said, adding, “This is just super nice of them and we couldn’t be more thankful.”
For more information on Wheelchairs 4 Kids, visit its website, wheelchairs4kids.org.