Carter Dekkers is a typical five-year-old boy–bright, funny, snuggly, and a bit mischievous. He just happens to have spina bifida. Mall Walk veterans will recognize this blond cutie from the past three years, when he and his parents, Mark and Marne, and older sisters, 10-year-old Sophie and 8-year-old Hailey, have led their team to finish among the top fundraisers.
A 19-week ultrasound revealed the spina bifida diagnosis. “It rocked our world like nothing we ever experienced before,” says Marne. “They could see the opening in his spine as well as spinal fluid that was collecting in the ventricles of his brain. We were scared and completely overwhelmed with a flood of medical terms and jargon. We learned everything we possibly could about Spina Bifida in the four months leading up to his birth. His first year was tough and included a lot of surgeries. It felt like we spent more time in hospitals and doctors’ offices than we did at home. But all through that, we had excellent, amazing people – doctors, nurses, therapists, receptionists, and many others – who were concerned with the care for our son.
Carter began receiving outpatient services at Children’s Care when he was nine months old, getting outpatient physical therapy in both a gym setting and in the heated pool at the Children’s Care main building. He has also received medical equipment and many different types of braces at Children’s Care subsidiary Rehabilitation Medical Supply.
“Something that has always struck me about Children’s Care is how everyone works together,” says Marne. “I have seen this often during Carter’s outpatient therapies. Whether it’s schedulers working on coordinating hectic schedules, or doctors working with therapists, or therapists working with orthotists, or therapists working with medical equipment personnel– the end result is always to do what’s best for each individual child.”
The Dekkers say that’s what drew them to the Mall Walk–just as everyone has always come together to do what’s best for Carter, the Mall Walk is how they can come together to help Children’s Care. “So many times throughout Carter’s life, we have been on the receiving end of things,” says Marne. “And so much of what we’ve received cannot be repaid. Things like watching your child stand for the first time with the help of bracing and equipment, or watching him take his first step at the age of four. These things bring tears to your eyes and it takes your breath away. There is no repaying those moments. That’s why when you are given the opportunity to give back, you want to do whatever you can to help. And knowing that the money we raise goes towards services and programs that directly benefit the kids at Children’s Care is rewarding for us.”
Carter is stable now, but Mark and Marne never know when a health issue will arise to challenge their busy young family. It gives them a perspective of gratitude that reminds them to cherish every single day with their three children. “Giving and receiving is like a cycle,” says Marne. “When you receive, you want to be able to give back. That’s why we love the Mall Walk–it’s how we can give back to a place that has given Carter and our family so much.”