Four-year-old Bellamaria Natale has had an illness since she was about 6 months old that has her using a wheelchair and limited her ability to speak.
Her parents have taken her to countless doctors, but so far no one can pinpoint the problem.
Bellamaria fights hard through her illness, and never complains, said her dad, William Natale, 26, of Boynton Beach, who owns a moving company.
The girl’s mom, Dominique, 25, calls Bellamaria and her other daughter, 2-year-old Tigerlilly, her “little princesses.”
Now, thanks to a city of Boynton Beach worker and an Oregon man who knows what it’s like to raise a child with disabilities, the princesses will have a magical carriage.
Bellamaria and Tigerlilly — known as Bella and Tiger — will be the honorary starters at the 5K Barrier Free Run, Walk or Roll in Boynton Beach next month. The race raises money for the city’s Barrier Free Park, a Boynton park where kids with disabilities can play alongside kids without disabilities.
And the girls will be riding in a Cinderella carriage wheelchair, a specially made purple and pink one complete with “magical clouds.”
All this came to be because a few families with disabled children decided to “pay it forward.”
Families helping families
The Natales called the city months ago seeking a place to hold a ball for their nonprofit, called Faith in Miracles. The Love for Hope Ball will raise money for 16-year-old Luceano Damian, of Palm Springs, whose family needs money to buy him a wheelchair-accessible van. Luceano has cerebral palsy and respiratory problems.
The family’s kindness to the Diaz family came a year after the Natales were given a similar wheelchair-accessible van. That came about after Palm Beach County Fire Rescue captains partnered with others in the community, including the Schumacher Auto Group, to buy the van.
“They’re trying to pay it forward,” said Wally Majors, the city’s director of parks and recreation of the Natales.
The Natales and city agreed to host the ball at the Carolyn Sims Center after the Barrier Free Park Race. That’s also when the city decided it would be a great match to have Bella as the honorary starter.
A little later on, Majors was watching TV and saw a segment on a man who built specialized wheelchairs.
“We thought it would be exciting that perhaps we could have a magic wheelchair built for Bella,” Majors said.
He reached out to the Oregon-based nonprofit company, Magic Wheelchair, founded by Ryan Weimer, who knows about raising a child with disabilities.
Weimer’s son, Keaton, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at 9 months old. In 2008, Keaton told his dad he wanted to be a pirate for Halloween, so Weimer created a wheelchair designed as a pirate ship. The idea caught on and spread.
The Natale family spoke with Weimer and volunteer builder Matthew Stowers through Skype at Boynton’s City Hall. Bella and Tiger got to pick their Cinderella-themed design: they chose the No. 6, purple and pink with yellowish ribbons and white wheels. It will have bubbles, and LED lighting. And — as Weimer and Stowers were proud to show off — a fog machine that will attach to the wheelchair to make it look like the girls are surrounded by magical clouds.
“You’re being an advocate for special needs. You didn’t let them be forgotten. You let them shine,” Dominique Natale, 25, told the men.
While the Natales don’t know what’s wrong with Bella, they do know her muscles are weak and her spine puts pressure on one of her lungs. Bella has a ventilator to help her breathe. The Natales have hope that one day Bella will be able to walk, dance, do the dishes and do laundry.
Already she fulfills a special role in their lives.
“I call her my lighthouse because she keeps us grounded,” said her dad.
He said there are things in life that people can complain about, “but I look at her and she fights so hard and doesn’t complain.
“No matter what you’re going through, you can always fight.”
IF YOU GO
Barrier Free 5k Charity Run, Walk or Roll
Where: Congress Avenue Barrier Free Park at 3111 S. Congress Ave.
When: Saturday, Feb. 13 at 7:30 a.m.
Price: Registration is $30 in advance and $35 after Feb. 1
To register, visit http://www.RAPB.COM/5K. For information, call the Recreation and Parks Director, Wally Majors, at 561-742-6255.
The Love for Hope Ball
Where: Carolyn Sims Center at 225 NW 12th Ave.
When: Saturday, Feb. 13 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: $40 for one adult; $70 per couple; $10 per child
Tickets must be bought in advance. For information, call 561-201-1196 or email firstname.lastname@example.org