Wheelchair-confined four-year-old now able to enjoy outdoor playtime thanks to ramp install from Home Builders Foundation

Hattie on her new ramp

SUBMITTED BY MICHELLE MENDOZA

Like many four-year-olds, one of Hattie H.’s favorite activities is playing outside. She and her two-year-old sister, Shiloh, ride up and down their long driveway in their pink Jeep, chase bubbles and play with chalk. Hattie was born with a rare chromosome disorder called 1q43q44 deletion syndrome. Some of the side effects of this diagnosis are seizures and developmental delays, therefore Hattie uses a wheelchair to get around. Hattie is also non-verbal but has learned other ways to communicate and express joy. 

Hattie’s parents, Abby and David, have learned a lot since Hattie’s diagnosis. They moved into a one-story home that makes it easier to navigate Hattie’s wheelchair, enrolled her in preschool at Fletcher Miller School (a Jeffco public school for children with special needs), purchased adaptive movement and speech assistance devices, engaged therapists, learned how to administer a myriad of medications and adjust diets and even found Hippotherapy sessions for Hattie. As Hattie grew, the big challenge they faced daily was carrying both her and her 45-pound hot pink wheelchair down the steps in the garage. The steps had to be navigated each time they set out for preschool, doctor’s appointments, activities or even a trip to the grocery store. Hattie’s mom began to dread the daily outside play time that Hattie and Shiloh enjoyed so much because it meant another trip down those stairs.

During one of Hattie’s speech therapy sessions, Abby mentioned her ongoing struggle with the stairs to speech therapist Jill Tullman. Tullman, who works with many individuals with physical disabilities, suggested she contact the nonprofit Home Builders Foundation (HBF), which provides home modifications to those with disabilities at no charge. Abby immediately completed HBF’s intake evaluation and was thrilled when she was notified that her request for a garage ramp had been approved and would take place in August.

The morning that the ramp was to be installed, Abby and her two daughters made a trip to their favorite bakery to pick up cookies for the team. Then, they excitedly watched throughout the day as HBF Project Captain, Bill Wood and a group of volunteers from 3 Trees Design & Drafting and Urban Lights built and installed the ramp. Abby says it was an incredibly happy day for all of them. “Everyone who worked on the project was incredibly kind, generous and positive,” enthused Abby. “They made us feel like this was their most important project and took time to get to know the girls.”

After waiting impatiently for the final touches to be completed, Hattie and Shiloh got to take their first trip down the ramp. As Hattie was wheeled easily from the house to the yard, she waved her arms excitedly and grinned. Shiloh giggled while she skipped along beside her sister. And Abby felt a huge weight lift from her shoulders knowing that she would no longer have to face the physical challenge of lifting her daughter and her wheelchair every time they left the house.

With the barrier of the stairs removed, Hattie and Shiloh have enjoyed more outdoor play time and routine trips to schools, appointments and the store have become much more manageable for all. “This ramp has greatly increased Hattie’s freedom and independence,” Abby said, adding, “We are so grateful to everyone involved!”

HBF enables individuals with disabilities and their families to live more independent, elevated lives by working with skilled volunteers and partners to create home modifications that empower greater access, reinforce safety and equip clients with the ability to tackle everyday tasks.