Over the past few months, more than 100 local tradespeople, contractors and others have volunteered to retrofit a home to meet the needs of two little girls fighting a very adult-sounding disease.
Now the work is nearing completion, giving Kadence and Addison Foley and their mom a strong start in a new 1,870-square-foot home that has been future-proofed as the two kids fight Friedreich’s ataxia (FA).
“I’ve always volunteered for a lot of different things, but a project of this magnitude was a new one for me … when it comes to kids, it’s hard to say no,” says Ken Crossley, a veteran tradesperson who, alongside Mark Fowlie of FINELINE Drywall and several others, helped install much of the home’s drywall, giving up whatever free time they could spare.
“We were both doing it in the evening and weekend, maintaining full-time work, so it was spread out over a couple of weeks,” says Crossley. “I tried to come in and put in a couple hours here and there.”
Calgary-based Casa Flores Cabinetry has donated all the cabinets that will be in the house, and general manager Jolanda Slagmolen-Flores says when she put the call out to her suppliers looking for materials, hardware and paint, they volunteered to donate everything.
“I was quite floored – it was a really good feeling to come back and say we could donate all of it,” says Slagmolen-Flores, who first heard about the project last December. “When we went to the house to measure [for the cabinets], the kids had done a bunch of posters saying thank you to the volunteers.”
Slagmolen-Flores says her designer tried to make the cabinets as accessible as possible, with higher toe kicks so the wheelchairs can get in closer. All sinks are open underneath to allow easier access, as well.
“We had seven people volunteer to build the cabinets, and we had another company that does [the painting] … JECO Finishing’s team volunteered to spray all the cabinets,” she says. “A lot of companies contributed.”
FA, for which there is currently no cure, is a disease that damages the nervous system, impacts mobility and can cause potentially life-shortening heart conditions. Kadence and Addison were both diagnosed with FA last year. Knowing the challenges facing them – most kids with FA eventually need wheelchairs – their mom, Shanna Leavitt, determined their old home in Fairways would soon become unsuitable for the girls’ changing needs and, with the help of a family friend, a new home was procured in Woodside.
But the home required major renovations for accessibility. A GoFundMe campaign was launched to help cover the costs and assist with other FA-related expenses that may arise moving forward.
Leavitt says her family has been overwhelmed with the support they’ve received.
What a blessing to have such people within our community – they haven’t met us, yet they’re eager to jump on board and be a part of this … it’s amazing.
One aspect of the new home the family’s excited about is how it’ll improve the girls’ independence. “I think Addison is definitely looking forward to it,” says Leavitt. “She’s having difficulty with the stairs and getting around … to be able to do a lot more on her own will be huge.”
Leavitt says the girls are sad to be moving out of their neighbourhood, but Woodside has already been very welcoming as the family prepares to take possession of their new home (at press time, anticipated about mid-August).
“We’ve been very blessed – the people are great,” Leavitt says.
For more information about the girls’ story, FA and to donate, visit ampossible.org