Shortly before Christmas 2008 a beautiful 6-month-old baby waits for a forever home and a family to call his own. He has striking big blue eyes, a huge smile, and a rocky start but things are about to turn around for him, in a big way.
Not so far away, there is a family of five who have acted as a stable foster home for many displaced children. They are taking a break to recover after a particularly heart-breaking experience, but they can’t help feeling that their work isn’t over. Jyl, the mom, has always felt called to adopt a baby in need of a good home. And so, the stars begin to align…
Through a friend, the family meets the sweet baby and finds it impossible not to fall in love with those baby blues! They find themselves already thinking of names that might fit the tiny boy. It is almost Christmas and “Gabriel” seems a natural fit. It will be 3 more months before the boy named for an angel will come to his family. But he will never want for a home again.
As Gabe grows, delays in physical development cause his family to seek out diagnostic testing. As a toddler, Gabe is diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. His family is blind-sided. Mom, Jyl, shared, “I had no idea what it was and the more I read the more tears streamed down my face. Right then I decided we would cherish each day together as a family. We would give all the children as many life experiences and adventures as possible.” And that is what they did.
Today, Jyl describes their family as the average middle class split family. Gabe splits time between his parents’ homes and the two households work together to provide consistent rules and the very best medical care. They love to travel and use this as an opportunity for the 4 kids to expand their minds, experiences, and memories.
Gabriel has a huge, glowing personality and his excitement for life shines onto everyone he meets. He loves to help others and spent part of his summer giving back by building care bags for the local homeless community. He also fishes, bowls, swims, and plays sports. He is a movie buff and enjoys video games.
Six months after Gabe’s diagnosis the family became a part of our MDFF community at our annual holiday party. “To say that Gabe loved this experience would not do justice to the joy and excitement he would get each year when he heard we were going to this party! Putting friends, family, firefighters and Santa all in one room…” Gabe was over the moon. In tears, Jyl shares, “By bringing families together, MDFF has given my family something I hold precious and that is friendship with other families who understand. They understand the struggles and the triumphs. They have different resources than I have found. Every year I hear of things that improve the life of my child.”
Since then, “MDFF has helped our family get a ramp to get in and out of the house. They helped us fill an urgent need for the (integrated) stander in Gabe’s wheelchair. We literally needed the funds in a matter of hours and MDFF was right there for Gabe. The very first time Gabe stood in his chair by himself, he rolled over to me and said, “Look mom, I can hug you standing up!” That was priceless! I couldn’t be more thankful for the blessing of MDFF in our lives.”
With the stander, Gabe has gained confidence, self-esteem, and pride. The stander is safer for him, eliminating 6-8 transfers a day for therapy. It is safer for the family as they no longer need to lift him and risk injury with repeated strain. It increases access to standing therapy, helping to maintain bone strength and muscle flexibility. The stander helps Gabe cook in the kitchen, stand eye to eye with peers, play sports, see in a crowd, and stand at the mirror to get ready for school.
The sweet little blue-eyed baby, named for an angel, has come a long way. Perhaps even more exciting, he has so much further to go.