GRAND RAPIDS, Mich,– Imagine starting the school year at a new school surrounded by new faces, and doing it all in a wheelchair. For one middle-schooler, the generosity of a good friend helped make the transition smoother.
“He’s funny and he’s cute and he gets in trouble and he’s naughty, just like every other kid,”said author and cerebral palsy advocate, Johnnie Tuitel. “But, he’s in a wheelchair.”
Tuitel is talking about his good friend, 12 year-old Phoenix Broadwood- Volkhardt. Phoenix has cerebral palsy and started his first day at a new school, C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy. He was surrounded by a bunch of kids that don’t know much about his history.
Tuitel knows a thing or two about being the only kid in school in a wheelchair. He was the first special needs student in Michigan that attended public school in the 1970s. He came to Phoenix’s class to help break down why the aspiring chef doesn’t talk or act like everyone else.
But he also helped Phoenix show up to his first day in style.
“Insurance would not pay for Phoenix to get a new wheelchair,” said Kathryn Broadwood, Phoenix’s mother. “They wouldn’t even consider an application until February even though there’s a lot of stuff wrong with it.”
So Phoenix’s mother got ahold of Johnnie. Within a day, Phoenix was sitting in a used, but much improved, wheelchair.
“The difference in the quality between the two wheelchairs, it’s like Phoenix’s old wheelchair was like a go-cart, and then Johnnie gave him a BMW,” explained Broadwood. “Its awesome.”
The wheelchair was donated by Permobile, out of Nashville, Tennessee and is worth about $35,000.