A friend in need: Brockton boy with muscular dystrophy can't get a wheelchair until $8,000 is raised
By Jennifer Kovalich, Enterprise staff writer
Brockton firefighter Rick Heenan shows Casey Pittman the Jaws of Life metal-cutting equipment during a visit to the Pleasant Street fire station. Casey, who has muscular dystrophy, was named a junior firefighter ambassador. (Marc Vasconcellos/The Enterprise)
BROCKTON — Sitting in the driver's seat of his red motorized scooter, 11-year-old Casey Pittman drove his way around his classroom at the Downey Elementary School.
Dressed in a red fleece top and jeans, he got off the scooter and with slow, deliberate steps walked to a desk, his small, thin body shuffling from side to side in an unsteady gait.
Casey, a brown-eyed boy with an impish smile who likes baseball and video games, has muscular dystrophy and was recently diagnosed with scoliosis.
In December he was fitted for a new electric wheelchair that will help slow the curving of his spine from scoliosis and allow him to play outdoors, even in the mud.
"I will be able to get around a lot better," Casey said on Friday at the school. "It's going to be a lot more comfortable to sit in."
But before the wheelchair can be delivered, Casey's family needs some help to pay for it.
Paul Pittman, Casey's father, was laid off recently from his job on the Big Dig. His mother, Connie, is facing her own surgery.
"What we need is 8,000 more dollars," Casey said. "Some of it already got paid. Insurance and the Muscular Dystrophy Association paid for it. Altogether it's about $15,000."
The wheelchair is black, a color Casey picked, and is custom-fit to adjust as he grows. The seat can go back and if parked, can also be raised and lowered, he said.
Debby Enos, a family friend who met the Pittmans through the Brookfield Little League, is spearheading a fundraising effort for Casey's wheelchair. She opened an account at The Community Bank, making the first donation.
"I'm hoping that the whole community can chip in," she said.
Muscular dystrophy is a disease that weakens the body's muscles, which slowly stop working.
Casey was diagnosed at age10 months. Within the past year his condition has begun to deteriorate.
"He's had more difficulty moving from the scooter to a chair," said Deane Norris, Casey's fifth-grade teacher. Sometimes while moving from one to the other, Casey has fallen.
Norris' eyes welled up as she spoke about her student. Casey, she said, is an excellent reader, draws well and has good friends.
He is the Pittman's middle child and has a younger sister, Kaylee, and older brother Christopher.
On Saturday, Casey toured the Brockton Fire Department's Station No. 1 on Pleasant Street and met with firefighters over pizza. He is a "Goodwill Ambassador" for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Southeastern Massachusetts, based in Raynham. The MDA is a charity strongly supported by firefighters.
"Today was just to bring him over and get to meet him," said firefighter Tim Bamford. "We've been looking for a Goodwill Ambassador. It will really just get Casey involved with the services that MDA has to offer."
Nicole Grimes, interim director of the local MDA chapter, said as a Goodwill Ambassador, Casey will be a role model for others and represent their educational and fundraising campaigns.
"He's very likeable," she said.
Casey used to play baseball in the Challenger Little League, which is for kids with physical or mental handicaps, but no longer.
"I can hit the ball but it's harder to run the bases," he said.
He bowls, shoots baskets and also like miniature golf.
He's also an animal lover, with two dogs, Jack and Mandy, and two cats, Misty and Mittens, and would like to become a veterinarian.
"He's a well-behaved little boy who would be deserving of any help," Norris, his teacher, said.