B.C. boy with special needs gets the gift of freedom
Kale Schmelzel, a three-year-old with cerebral palsy, got a surprise gift from Telus for Christmas. Dec. 21, 2012. (YouTube)
Christine Tam , CTV British Columbia
Published Friday, December 21, 2012 2:59PM PST
Last Updated Monday, April 28, 2014 5:14PM PDT
“If you could give a gift to anyone, what would it be?”
One Prince George, B.C. mother answered that question on Facebook without knowing her comment would change the life of her family.
In early December, Telus asked their Facebook fans what they would give as a gift if there were no limits.
“We received so many thoughtful responses that we decided to surprise our fans and help make some of their gift ideas come true,” Telus communications director Shawn Hall said in a release.
Chelsea Schmelzel saw the post in her Facebook feed and answered that she would give her three-year-old son, Kale, who has cerebral palsy, the gift of freedom.
“The first thing that came to mind for me was I would give my son a wheelchair lift so we could bring his power chair home in the van,” Schmelzel said.
Without being able to transport Kale’s power chair in their vehicle, the Schmelzels were heartbroken their son was often restricted to the home, especially in the winter.
“It was very challenging and a little saddening. We’d still try to bring him everywhere we could, but he’s over three feet tall now, and it’s dangerous to carry him,” Schmelzel said. “So we can’t go grocery shopping, we can’t go to restaurants, events, we can’t do any of these things, especially safely and in the winter.”
Schmelzel explained that being able to involve Kale in the community is important, both for him and for other families with special needs kids.
“I really want to be an advocate for special needs kids and I try to do as much as I can. It’s really important to talk to people and share experiences with other families. I want to continue to do that so people won’t have to be in our situation, closeted at home with nowhere to go,” Schmelzel said.
The determined mom has already made a difference in the community. She recently helped design the first accessible park in Prince George, she speaks at events and appeals to the government for community funding.
Within a week of posting her gift idea, Telus contacted her to say they’d like to send Kale some stuffed animals.
“I was thrilled to get the stuffed animals. I never thought anything of my post other than it was one of those positive things you put out there in the world,” she said.
Then Telus said they would like to fly to the family’s home and install a lift for Kale’s wheelchair so he could explore the world on his own terms.
“It was so surreal it didn’t feel like it was happening,” Schmelzel said. “Seeing the lift for the first time -- it was shock. And then to see it in my van with his power chair was just absolutely amazing and overwhelming that they really did this.”
Telus made a moving YouTube video of the story and within a day of posting it had thousands of views.
Schmelzel said the gift has changed their life and given them the ability to be a real family.
“I’m not the only one they helped. But for a company to do this… They didn’t have to and they didn’t have to choose me. I don’t think they will ever truly understand what they did for me,” she said.
Schmelzel hopes Kale’s story will inspire others who may be struggling with limitations of their own.
“Kale, he’s just a smiley, happy guy. For a kid to have such limitations and still be able to be happy, take things lightly and really look on the bright side, it’s hugely inspirational,” she said.
“He continues to smile and he can’t even move, walk or make his own choices. How can you not be inspired by someone like that? It makes you really appreciate life.”