By Randy Wyrick, Staff Writer for the Vail Daily
"You'll fall, everyone does, and it'll hurt", said Alejandro Arreola. "Pick yourself up and keep moving forward." Arreola has battled cerebral palsy so long that he wore out his walker and wheelchair and was dragging himself around his home. The Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation got wind of that and put the swift in Swift Eagle. Now, he can he get around and better see where he's going. They came up with a new electric wheelchair, a new walker and new glasses.
"I want to thank everyone for your kindness and efforts in getting me the most amazing gifts over the last four months," Arreola said. "In addition to standing and moving easier, I now can actually see where I'm going with my terrific new glasses. They help me see distances and close up and even get dark when I go outside. Cathy said she thinks they make me look like a lawyer, and I think I look like a movie star."
THE KID'S A FIGHTER
Arreola, 30, rang a bell with Swift Eagle board member Cathy Dockery who work with him years ago. Swift Eagle found him the walker that enabled him to stride confidently across the stage with his 2006 Battle Mountain High School graduation class. For a guy who doesn't seem to walk that well, he walks everywhere. One rainy night he didn't walk home. He slipped and fell, and was out there all night. A neighbor spotted him the next morning and called the ambulance. The next day he was out walking again.
"He's the toughest person I've ever met," said Linda Welch, his Battle Mountain counselor.
He grins from ear to ear and says, "It's amazing what I can do!"
COMING FULL CIRCLE
When Arreola's application showed up this year, Hamilton and the Swift Eagle folks asked to help. Welch reconnected with Arreola and has been making sure he makes his appointments with Dr. Kent Petrie, health and human services, physical therapy, Catholic Charities and Kaiser Permanente. Dockery and Welch came up with a priority list that included a walker, electric wheelchair, health insurance, telephone, computer, physical therapy and a back brace.
Hamilton was chatting with Michelle Maloney, of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, who mentioned that a friend had both an electric and a manual wheelchair, plus a walker to donate. Hamilton sent Alejandro's story to Maloney and Karen Carthy.
"Well, it is a small world," Carthy said.
When Arreola started attending Eagle Valley Elementary School all those years ago, Karen Carthy carried him on and off the school bus, found him his first rickety wheelchair and bought him his first backpack. He's bi-lingual, English and Spanish, and talks about his life with anyone who'll listen — in either language.
"A lot of people don't appreciate life," he said.
GIFT OF HOPE
The electric wheelchair is too big for Arreola's current home, so they're trying to find one he can use indoors, or a different home, or construct some sort of outside shelter for it so he can use it around his neighborhood.
In the meantime, Arreola has his new glasses, a new walker, a new manual wheelchair he can use indoors, a cellphone and a computer. He is going to counseling, he is doing physical therapy and has expressed a desire to be a DJ. He's making a video about being disabled and has more hope in his day than he's had for quite a while, Hamilton said.
Welch has been taking him to Battle Mountain High School to meet with counselors and tech people to learn more about his computer. He can connect to the internet at home and play CDs and DVDs on it.
"I have good ideas. I would really like to become a DJ and make some dinero. That way I can help pay for therapy and help other people," Arreola said. "I also want to pay my bills. Another idea is to create a blog, where I let others know what restaurants and places around here help disabled people."