The generosity along the Gulf Coast is starting to become second nature for Leah Cortello, who has an adopted son who struggles with a developmental disability.
So far this year, people in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties have come together to donate time and supplies for her son, Kaden Grizzard, who suffers from Dandy Walker Syndrome, which effects muscle coordination and leaves him mostly wheelchair and bed bound.
Just last month, Kaden received a beach wheelchair, which was donated by Stepping Stones for Stella. The wheelchair allows the 7-year-old to enjoy the beach with the rest of his family members. Something he was never able to do before.
Several weeks before obtaining the wheelchair, Cortello was at the Midway Lowes trying to purchase items to construct a special bed for Kaden, when an employee graciously offered to pay for the supplies out of his own pocket.
And just last week, Kaden and his mother got another dose of generosity from a Ft. Walton Beach business that gave Kaden a custom paint job on his newly obtained walker he will be able to use for years to come.
Cortello found the walker for Kaden online at the beginning of last month at a good price, but there was one small problem: its color.
“I found it on a buy/sell/trade Facebook page. I was down in St. Petersburg (Fla.) when I saw it on Facebook. Typically that piece of equipment runs a couple thousand dollars,” Cortello said. “But I ended up getting a good deal on it. But the color was pink, which wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Cortello and her husband originally thought about just utilizing Duct Tape to cover up the pink paint job.
“My husband was like ‘Well, let’s see if we can spray paint it’,” Cortello said.
But their discussion soon turned in a different direction and the couple started looking at other affordable options to give Kaden a superhero-themed walker.
“We had a couple of friends that had friends that owned body shops. So we reached out to them and eventually got in contact with Chris Pike and Chase Desantis of Southern Sound of Ft. Walton Beach and Nelson Rodriguez of Exclusive Customs of Fort Walton Beach,” Cortello said.
After discussions with Rodriguez and Pike on the vision for the walker, the two men took the walker and worked their magic.
“We originally just wanted to get the paint from them and do it ourselves,” Cortello said. “We didn’t expect for them to take it and do what they did with it. They asked us if we minded if they did it a certain way, and we didn’t have a problem with it. We just wanted it to look good for Kaden.”
After a week at the body shop, Kaden’s parents went to pick up the walker and were surprised at the detail the men put into the project. Not only had it been custom painted, but Kaden had another reason to smile with the addition of decals, including a Superman logo.
“We went to the shop and were prepared to pay for it, and they were like ‘Don’t worry about it,’” Cortello said. “It was so nice. I definitely wasn’t expecting that at all.”
The duo decked out the walker in blue paint with yellow lettering for Kaden’s name and a yellow Superman logo.
“Kaden is our Superman. That’s what we call him,” Cortello said. “It turned out to be beautiful, and he’ll eventually be able to walk with it.”
Down the road, Kaden will be able use the walker to strengthen his leg muscles. He is mostly wheelchair and bed bound at the moment, but Cortello said the walker could soon change all of that.
“He’s already used it a couple of times,” Cortello said. “He spends a majority of his time on his back or on his stomach, so it opens up a new world for him to be able to be on his feet.”
Cortello moved the Navarre area a little over a year ago, and she said the generosity from the area has been way more than she ever imagined. Especially this time, when she was just looking for a bucket of paint to help make Kaden’s new walker look appropriate for her “Superman”.
“There are so many good people in this areas that have helped us, and I couldn’t be more thankful for what they have done for my family,” Cortello said.