Effort underway to build wheelchair-accessible bathroom for local teen

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 5:00 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - There’s an effort underway by a local business owner to build a Dallas Cowboys themed handicap-assessable bathroom for a teenage boy with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and his mother says the bathroom remodel would change their lives.

Santiago Fraga, 13, a 7th grader at Midway Middle School known to his friends and family as Santi, was born premature at 28 weeks with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

Santi’s experienced a lifetime of health complications and surgeries, one as recent as last week, and those challenges have been compounded for him and his mom, Evonne, by the recent unexpected passing of Santi’s father, Robert, in January 2018.

“I feel like I’ve struggled a lot when Robert first died because he did everything,” Evonne said.

And that included the heavy lifting of their son, particularly when it came to getting him out of his wheelchair and into the family’s small bathroom which doesn’t have a door wide enough for a wheelchair.

“I always thought Robert, who was 6-feet tall, would be here,” Evonne said. “And since he’s gone, I’ve always worried about what am I going to do when he gets bigger. I get him in and out of the tub. It’s just me.”

A family recently donated a ceiling track system to Evonne’s office at Hope and Believe Pediatric Therapy, where she works as clinic manager. The owner, Julie Melton, gave it to Evonne and thanks to that, she’s able to harness Santi in his bedroom and push him into the bathroom.

But it’s far from ideal.

Santi still can’t get into the bathroom to brush his teeth or wash his face and as he gets older, he’s wanting more independence, his mother says. Evonne began calling around for bids on widening their bathroom despite knowing she’d have a hard time coming up with the cash.

She contacted Johnny Gonzales Constuction, having no idea she and Santi had met the owner before.

Johnny had an encounter with Santi at a local baseball field years ago when Johnny’s daughter was playing softball next to where Santi was playing in the Challenger League for those with disabilities.

Johnny stopped Santi to comment on his Dallas Cowboys themed wheelchair.

When Johnny showed up to look at the Fraga’s bathroom, he recognized the Cowboys fan and said he had “no choice” but to figure out a way to help.

“When I walked in to their home, I knew we had to,” Gonzales said. “There is no option. We have to get it done.”

“She didn’t even know it was me and I didn’t know it was her,” Johnny said. “Sometimes God just put’s things in perspective. "

Johnny is taking on the project and building it at-cost but he’s asking for the community’s help. Johnny says he knows what it’s like to struggle as he grew up as a teenager sleeping on the floor many nights at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Waco, only having food to eat which was served there. Since he’s had success as a business owner, he’s always looking for ways to give back.

“I think it’s hands down I know how to do it and if someone needs it that bad, you go deliver,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales designed a Cowboys themed bathroom for the mega fan.

He estimates it will cost him around fifteen to twenty thousand dollars to complete.

Evonne has started selling t-shirts that read “Rollin with Santiago” on the front for $20. She’s already sold $4,100 in shirts since October. La Fiesta Restaurant was a big chunk of that, purchasing a shirt for every employee.

Gonzales is also planning a Cowboys football pot selling one hundred, $100 squares with prizes given out at the end of every quarter.

Central Texas businessman Wes Waller, known for helping many families in need, has already agreed to purchase the first 10 squares and put Santiago’s name on them.

Anyone who would like to purchase a shirt or buy a square for the game can contact Johnny Gonzalez on Facebook or at 254-744-3803.

You can make a donation to Evonne on Venmo at @Evonne-Fraga.

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