MARICOPA — Like most eight-year-old boys, Brayden Powell plays video games, loves Disneyland, and of course, exploring the world with his brothers and sister.
“The words 'paralyzed,' 'paraplegia,' those are words you never expect to hear with your child,” said Brayden's mom, Katrina Powell. They live in Maricopa, which is about 30 minutes south of Phoenix.
"I just want to see him running and climbing mountains and doing all the things he's always done," she said.
In September, Brayden walked into Phoenix Children’s hospital with what seemed like a cold that wouldn’t go away. However, weeks later, he left the hospital in a wheelchair.
“It was surreal, it was very difficult to watch,” his dad, Michael, said.
At the time, Brayden had an ongoing fever. Within days, he lost all feeling from the waist to his feet. Doctors ran a panel of tests and eventually diagnosed him with transverse myelitis, which is essentially inflammation at his spinal cord.
“Seeing his legs not respond to anything that they were doing, it literally dropped my heart into my stomach,” his mom said.
They’ve been advised to seek out stem-cell therapy in Austin Texas, but it's costly and not covered by insurance. The estimate: $100,000.
But, the community of Maricopa quickly moved to help Brayden and his family.
“I literally thought we’d get a couple $25 gift certificates here or there, nothing major,” said Brianna Reinhold, a family friend, who created a raffle and partnered with businesses to help them raise the funds.
“From the minute I posted it on our community Facebook pages, my phone has blown up,” she said.
Mom to mom, it caught the interest of Dawn Cotton, who owns her own business in Maricopa.
“Even though it’s not your own kid, you still feel that same heartbreak that she’s feeling, just mom to mom,” she said.
She is one of 57 businesses that have donated items for the raffle — from free oil changes to fitness classes.
Merenzi Young, an award-winning photographer, also joined the cause.
“I’m giving away in the raffle a whole portrait session with our studio so it includes professional hair and makeup,” she said.
The support brings Brayden's mom to tears. How could it not?
“There’s no way you could expect this,” she said.
It’s gifts of hope she said her family never saw coming. But, it's something they will never forget. And they're determined to pay it forward.
“To know that my son is loved and people care about the outcome, it’s unexplainable how it makes me feel and my husband feel,” she said. "I love this community so much and feel so lucky to have them by our side."
If you’d like to view the packages in the raffle or want to donate toward Brayden’s treatments, click here.