Wednesday, December 15, 2021 / by Ken Couture
Brian, 21, and Jonathan, 14, have Duchenne muscular dystrophy and have been wheelchair-bound since their teenage years. The gradual degeneration of the muscles, as well as the growth with age, makes them more dependent on their stay-at-home parents each year.
The family lifted them up for a bath and led them through the narrow doors and limited space in the living room.
But that changed on Saturday. The family returned home to a more spacious and accessible home at no cost - the result of The Good Deed project in less than two weeks of continuous work.
Maria Velazquez was speechless as she explored the house. A hallway that was once cramped was now open to the family room. The small bathroom, inaccessible to her sons, is now wheelchair accessible. The doors automatically opened and a fresh coat of paint covered the exterior of the house.
"I feel happy because I was having trouble (getting help)," said Maria Velazquez through tears. “There aren't many shows here in Vegas. I have been fighting for many years, mainly because there are two. It makes us a little lighter, the work a little lighter.
The Good Deed Project began working with Velazquezes nearly a year ago, said executive director Mandy Telleria. The all-volunteer association focuses on improving the living conditions of people who are in dangerous conditions or need to improve their health, mainly through schools or other agencies.
“What we're seeing is a lot of family ownership,” said Telleria, the commercial's designer. “They own the house, but they don't have the finances to keep it in place. Or, maybe they bought the house because they bought what they could afford, (but) the house was not suitable for living in.
Organizers of another nonprofit, the Wheelchair Foundation, jumped at the opportunity to help Velazquezes, who were struggling to install electric wheelchairs for their sons in their room. their bath.
Telleria thinks it's a perfect match for the association's first renovation since the start of the pandemic. They love to "take on difficult projects" and have seen how expanding their bathroom can change family life, she says.
“Small things we can do to give boys more independence and individual freedom are the focus of our project on this and then also to relieve some of the stress on boys. parents” said Telleria.
After months of planning, identifying donors, and in-kind volunteers, teams of at least 20 volunteers and contractors arrive each day to spend hours on renovations. For the Velazquez house, they only had 10 days to tear down a wall, re-wrap and redirect the plumbing.
The final product far exceeded the family's need for a suitable bathroom for Brian and Jonathan. Telleria estimates the renovation cost more than $100,000 in materials and labor.
Bobby Panaro, who donated $10,000 to help complete the project and complete the family wish list, said how important he sees the changes to family comfort.
“Something as simple as knocking down a few walls, changing some sensors and changing the door will really make a difference in their lives,” says Panaro. "It's going to hit them hard."
Volunteers work until 1:40 pm. Saturday before 2 pm with family. came to see the house. In addition to new doors and bathroom renovations, the association added a backyard lawn, voice-activated lights via Amazon's Alexa, murals in Brian and Jonathan's bedroom with Las Vegas loot. Vegas Raiders and a soccer ball signed by quarterback Derek Carr, among other improvements. Telleria says the goal of each change is to make the home accessible, functional, and comfortable.
This makes the house like a "mini-mansion," says Brian Velazquez. For Maria Velazquez, the changes left her almost speechless. She doesn't expect any upgrades in her own bathroom, let alone all the personal items.
“There weren't many people to help and I appreciated their work, they were like angels,” she said. “They are volunteers, they don't need to be paid. They just do it with their hearts. There aren't many like that, so I appreciate every little detail. I feel grateful.
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