A Maryville College grad took a mission trip to Liberia a few years ago, and made a connection with a little boy in desperate need of help.
Now, they’re a little family living in Knoxville, grateful for the support of so many, including Variety of Eastern Tennessee.
We watched as Stevie Gleason helped her 7-year-old adopted son, Robert, put on his gloves, scarf, coat and helmet, helping him take off on his custom made Freedom Concepts trike.
Perfect partnership: Mom pushes, son pedals
It’s a perfect partnership: mom pushes and son pedals.
It’s a fun form of physical therapy for a little guy who’s been through so much; born with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain; small for his age, wearing leg braces for support.
“It’s increased his muscle tone a lot,” Stevie says,” like helping him build muscle for sure, but also independence and a little bit of social aspect, too, because you can see other kids riding bikes an dplaying and stuff and he can jump in and be more involved doing something other kids can do.”
This type of trike costs at least $2,000 and insurance usually doesn’t cover the expense.
Stevie wrote a letter to Variety of Eastern Tennessee asking for help.
Variety has donated more than $10 million
The non-profit has donated more than $10 million in grant funding and mobility equipment like Robert’s trike in our community.
“Just to see how Robert has advanced since he’s been here in the states is incredible,” says Carol Fusco of Variety. “I’ve been following the story for some time now and keeping in contact with the family.”
What a story it is: Stevie met Robert when he was four years old, as an organization she worked with tried to help his family in Liberia. The child born with so many medical problems was in desperate need of help.
Looked into his eyes and just connected
“He had been outside for a few days,” Stevie told us. “Neighbors said it consistently went on. They would leave to a different town and come back.” “I just looked in his eyes and just connected. It was different than any other kid I’d ever seen.”
Robert wasn’t speaking when the two met. With Stevie’s help, he quickly learned to communicate and is doing well in his studies during homeschool. He smiled as he said, “sometimes I fall off my bike a little.”
Stevie knows it isn’t an easy road ahead, and is thankful for Variety’s support, embracing each day with the little boy who captured her heart.
“I think the most important thing is that he’s loved and nurtured and gets to grow and be whoever he wants to be.”
Hollywood’s Night Out on Sunday
If you’d like to support Variety of Eastern Tennessee, you can do so in style Sunday, Feb. 24, at Hollywood’s Night Out.
The viewing party for Hollywood’s biggest awards show begins at 7 p.m. at Regal Entertainment’s headquarters. Tickets are $35 each. You can purchase them at any Regal box office.