Up until now, a small disabled Helenvale boy has only been mobile by dragging his lower body along the ground using his arms – and he does this to pursue one of his favourite activities – making contact with animals.
But a single Facebook post has changed the life of Cecil Carelse, 5, who will now receive a wheelchair, just in time to start Grade 1 next year.
When Patsy Wagner, of the Animal Anti-Cruelty League, logged on to Facebook on Saturday to ask for the donation of a wheelchair for Cecil, she never imagined her post would be shared more than 800 times, with scores of donors coming forward, including from overseas.
“I first saw him about two weeks ago on one of my trips to the area. I regularly visit Helenvale on my field trips for the Animal Anti-Cruelty League,” she said.
She immediately noticed Cecil dragging his legs across the street to get a closer look at the stray dogs in her vehicle.
“I think he really loves dogs because he was curious about the animals,” Wagner said.
“I went to speak to his grandmother, who said he was born like that.
“I returned a week later to give him a skateboard so that he could push himself around more easily, but I could not stop thinking about him. I decided he really needed help.”
Wagner posted a picture of Cecil and a request for a donation of a child’s wheelchair – and immediately the post was shared among her contacts.
“I could not believe it. We received offers of help, from abroad,” she said.
“Many people offered to buy wheelchairs for him but we have accepted the offer of one donor who has asked to remain anonymous.”
Cecil’s grandmother, Rina Potgieter, 59, said she and her daughter – Cecil’s mother, Valdenecia Carelse, 33 – were his primary care-givers.
Potgieter could not explain what caused Cecil’s disability.
“He was born like this. He had an operation when he was seven months old to remove a growth from his back, but he was also born with one club foot. He has never been able to move his legs,” she said.
Potgieter said Cecil did not allow his disability to stop him from being mobile and he quickly learnt how to use his arms to move around.
“Moving has always been difficult for him and his legs are always full of sores and scrapes,” she said.
“He cannot feel his legs so sometimes he does not even know he is hurt. I am always looking for bandages for his legs.” She said because of his paralysis he also required nappies which were expensive.
Potgieter, a community worker at the Helenvale Resource Centre, said she supported Valdenecia and her four children.
“I really appreciate the donation of a wheelchair for Cecil. It will really help him, especially next year when he goes to Northern Lights Primary School,” she said.
“I feel excited that people have come forward to help him. It proves there is still generosity in this world.”
Wagner said the league had opened a bank account for those who had come forward.
They would use the funds to buy bandages and nappies for Cecil.
“We might even be able to help other children with the same need in the area,” she said.