By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Clovis’ Daniel Maes rides his motorized wheelchair in a circle up and down a slight slope in the floor, pausing only long enough to change directions.
Joe Garcia watches his 8-year-old grandson motor around the Portales Fire Department with joy.
“He’s everything,” Garcia said. “He loves music. He can mix music like a DJ.”
Born autistic and with muscular dystrophy, Daniel was at the station last week to meet some of the firefighters who raised money to send him to Muscular Dystrophy Association camp this summer. The firefighters also helped with medical expenses.
Each year Portales and Clovis fire departments staff local intersections to collect donations in firefighter boots, according to Broc Carter, program coordinator for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Amarillo.
The Portales Fire Department has yet to schedule its fund-raiser while Clovis firefighters held their Fill the Boot fund-raiser to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association earlier this month.
The donations are used to help purchase medical equipment and also to help send children afflicted with muscular dystrophy to camp, Carter said. All the money raised in Clovis and Portales stays in the local community, he said.
“We feel honored and privileged to participate in the Fill the Boot for MDA,” Portales Fire Chief Raul Muniz said. “It inspired us to go out and earn more donations this year.”
Attending the MDA camp for the first time this year, Daniel was granted a new sense of freedom. The camp is geared for the kids to learn how to be independent and be in a boundary-free environment, Carter said.
While at camp, the kids participated in games, crafts, a carnival and even a food fight or two. The camp also helps to show them that they can be more independent and do more things for themselves, said Carter.
For many parents, it’s the first break that they have experienced in months or even years from the 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week care that is required with a handicapped child, according to Carter and Julie Garcia Maes, Daniel’s mother.
“I cried the whole time he was gone,” Maes said.
As a single parent the last five years, she said the MDA programs and her father have made raising Daniel easier.
“I wish the other children were as fortunate as me and Daniel,” said Maes.