A moving gesture

Family creates foundation to help disabled kids get around

By KATE REARDON

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Family, friends and strangers pitched in a few years ago to help Doug and Carol Whitfield buy a $40,000 van to tote around their 6-year-old daughter, Kaitlin, and her wheelchair.

The Whitfields were so touched by the gesture, they wanted to make sure other families could benefit from such kindness.

"The community stepped up in a big way," Doug Whitfield said. "Now, we’ve decided to give back to help other families in the same situation."

That’s how Kaitlin’s Mobility Foundation was established.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money and then provides that money and resources to families with special-needs children ages 18 and younger.

The foundation will help buy equipment that is medically or conveniently necessary, such as wheelchairs, car seats or even ramps, Whitfield said.

Over the years, the Whitfields have learned how expensive items not covered by insurance can be. A car seat big enough for Kaitlin, for example, costs $649.

"That was our first wake-up call that this stuff is expensive," Whitfield said.

But, for the Whitfields, these items have allowed them to continue activities with their other daughter, Janelle.

Most insurance companies cover therapeutic items such as a hot tub, but not items viewed as a convenience like a car seat, wheelchair, walker or ramps, Whitfield said.

That’s where the foundation can help.

Kaitlin’s challenges began when she was a baby. Seizures began attacking her tiny body when she was just six weeks old, causing developmental problems, the Whitfields said.

She’s been to numerous doctors and specialists, but the cause of thousands of seizures remains unknown. And the family makes more than 50 trips each year to doctors or the hospital.

The stinger came when Kaitlin started getting bigger. At 41 pounds, she’s getting too big to lug around, Carol Whitfield said.

More than two years ago, the Whitfields knew it was time to invest in a lowered, specialized van that makes it easier to load Kaitlin and her wheelchair. Without the van, traveling would become virtually impossible, the Whitfields said.

The cost of the van was not covered by insurance. That’s when others joined in to help.

Once the Whitfields bought the van, they also wanted to expand efforts to make sure other families in similar situations had the same opportunities.

The foundation has raised about $13,000, of which $8,000 has gone to help two other families buy equipment, Doug Whitfield said.

"These people really are angels," Theresa Davenport, foundation board member, said of the Whitfields. "Right in the middle of their own heartache, they turned around and said ‘we need to make a positive of this.’ "

Families with various income levels who may need assistance to make their lives bearable need not go broke getting that equipment, she said.

"Through Doug and Carol, I just see the tremendous need that families have out there," Davenport said. "I love Kaitlin dearly. She may not be able to talk or wrap her arms around you, but she’s an incredible, beautiful kid. There are special kids who have special needs who have incredible families."

Foundation board members hope to raise additional money through raffles and an upcoming benefit concert.

"If the funds are there, then we’re helping people," Davenport said. "This is about helping people."

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