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Boy in wheelchair inspires Phoenix business to help other families

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Posted at 4:29 PM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 18:17:53-05

PHOENIX — A young boy in a wheelchair has inspired a Phoenix company to help other families with special needs.

ABC15 first met Oliver Garza-Peña last year when a picture of him staring up at a Target ad with a boy in a wheelchair went viral.

Ollie is now almost 3 years old, loves cars, and going fast.

"He's starting preschool soon and he's wowing everyone with his personality," said Demi Porter, his mother.

Ollie was born with a rare disorder called Caudal Regression Syndrome. His spine stopped growing so he's paralyzed from the waist down but being in a wheelchair hasn't slowed him down.

"He's a speed racer in his wheelchair, he can walk on his hands, climb over baby gates, and put himself to bed," said Porter.

His story and the viral photo caught the attention of Lenny Ovadia at Ability Center. The businesses provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles and other mobility equipment. For Ollie's second birthday, they teamed up with other businesses to give him and his family a free weekend of fun.

"We supply the transportation and our partners supply the fun," said Ovadia.

Ovadia said the response inspired them to do more.

"As we were seeing all these smiles light up we thought, 'Maybe we should do this regularly with some other families that may be blessed by the same thing,'" said Ovadia.

The company just launched the Family First Program. They're partnering with businesses, sports organizations, and local groups to do the same for other families like providing a vehicle.

"Oftentimes, people in wheelchairs get left behind by the family for family outings because there's no room in the car. Sometimes that's the child, sometimes that's mom or dad, an uncle or brother or sister. So it's not just for little kids," said Ovadia. "Nobody should ever be left out, it's all about inclusion."

Ollie's parents -- who now also have a 6-month-old said they know how difficult it can be to get out.

"Transportation is one really big problem that us as a family, we think about, and it holds us back in a lot of ways," said Porter.

They hope other families can benefit from the program.

"It's opened a lot of doors for us. We've seen what he can do. What he can do in the community, sports, activities, places he can go and I don't think we would've seen all that without being shown that this is possible," said Porter.

"Seeing his face and how much he's grown and how much faster he's gotten in that chair, makes me smile ear-to-ear," said Ovadia.

Ovadia hopes it will also show other families that there are options for them to help get around.

"I don't know that a lot of people understand that there are wheelchair accessible vehicles to help. We speak regularly to people who haven't left in months because they didn't realize that there's a vehicle that can accommodate a big power wheelchair," he said.

Ability Center has teamed up with local nonprofits to nominate families.

Learn more about Ability Center by clicking here.