“There is nothing Charlotte can’t do; she just does things a little differently.”
“There is nothing Charlotte can’t do; she just does things a little differently,” shares Donna, Charlotte’s mom.
Charlotte is 15 years old and she is the middle child in a family of three sisters. She lives with muscular dystrophy, a condition that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. For Charlotte, this means that she has the ability to walk, but she cannot go long distances and will often rely on a manual wheelchair for mobility.
Like most teenagers, Charlotte enjoys spending time with her friends and is eager to experience greater independence. She has her very own bus pass, and will often use it to join her friends for a trip to the movies, the zoo, or an amusement park. While Charlotte can walk, having the right equipment means more opportunities to explore the world around her without a parent tagging along. “Her wheelchair affords her the ability to be included and be independent, which is invaluable to a teenager,” Donna explains.
“Her wheelchair affords her the ability to be included and be independent, which is invaluable to a teenager.”
While Charlotte is fortunate to have a good group of friends, she knows what it is like to be on the outside looking in. Her diagnosis of muscular dystrophy, a condition that she shares with both her mom and older sister, came at a young age and brought many challenges. Charlotte had difficulty meeting her milestones and participated in extensive therapy to get to where she is today. “She has what is called ‘drop falls,’” Donna explains. “Her muscles give out and she would just fall for no apparent reason. There is a delay in sending the messages from her brain to her muscles, so she was always hitting her head – her face or the back of her head.”
Growing up, Charlotte often faced situations where she lacked the strength or safety to participate. This experience, however, has only fortified her character and filled her with compassion and tenacity. “If there was ever a child eating lunch on their own, Charlotte would be the one to approach them and make sure they felt included,” Donna shares. “There was another student with autism, and she made a point to become close friends with him. She would be his partner when they did ballroom dancing so he wasn’t left out. I was really proud of her.”
When she isn’t at school, you might find Charlotte gliding through the water at her local pool. Swimming has always been one of her favourite activities, because it allows her to increase her muscle strength and doesn’t cause her any pain. Her condition makes it hard to participate in many different sports. She has an intolerance to exercise and getting too cold or hot can negatively affect her muscles and even cause cardiac arrest. But in the water, Charlotte can be free. “At one point she even planned on becoming a paralympic swimmer,” Donna shares. These days, though, Charlotte has her sights set on becoming a teacher. “She wants to be able to help students with special needs,” Donna explains.
Your support will make a meaningful difference in the lives of kids like Charlotte.
The inclination to help those in need is a trait that is deeply engrained in Charlotte’s family. Over the last few years, they have opened their home to two dogs, four birds, one fish, one gecko, one gerbil, and eight guinea pigs. One might think that caring for a household of pets would be a daunting task for an individual with muscular dystrophy, but Charlotte just gets creative. “Charlotte will walk the dogs in her wheelchair. She will tie the leash to the handle and push herself,” says Donna. “She won’t let her condition stop her from doing anything.”
Charlotte’s wheelchair is an essential component of her independence, providing her with the mobility and freedom to navigate the world on her own terms. Wheelchairs, though, are much like clothes for children – they outgrow them quickly. When Charlotte experienced a growth spurt, her old wheelchair became uncomfortable and painful to use. However, a new wheelchair for Charlotte would cost $6,000. Although government programs will often cover up to 75% of the expense, families must come up with the remaining funds to access the item in need. This can be a challenge at any time, but unfortunately Charlotte’s father was laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Donna is unable to work due to her muscular dystrophy. “I would have had to choose between feeding my family or the wheelchair,” shares Donna.
“There are so many aspects of her life that wouldn’t be possible without the funding from Easter Seals, because we simply couldn’t afford it at the time.”
Fortunately, Donna applied to Easter Seals Ontario’s Equipment Funding Program and was able to receive support toward Charlotte’s wheelchair. Donna had not approached Easter Seals in the past because her husband had been working and they wanted to save any available funding for families who were facing greater challenges than them. While Donna’s husband did eventually manage to find new employment, she is incredibly grateful to Easter Seals donors for being there for her family in their time of need. “There are so many aspects of her life that wouldn’t be possible without the funding from Easter Seals, because we simply couldn’t afford it at the time,” Donna Shares. “Whether or not we will need the support again down the line, or whether we will be fortunate enough to leave it for other families, we are very grateful.”
Your support can provide not just wheelchairs but also hope, independence, and boundless opportunities for remarkable kids like Charlotte. Together, we can help them overcome obstacles, chase their dreams, and build a brighter future. Your generosity matters. Please consider donating to Easter Seals to make more stories like Charlotte’s possible.