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Nathan D.

The “maybe” who became a “yes”

In 2004, Ashton Kutcher starred in a movie that detailed how one seemingly insignificant moment can have a bigger, far-reaching effect. It’s based on the idea that the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a tsunami on the other side of the world - and so it’s aptly named, “The Butterfly Effect.”

This week, Brian Mercedes (Executive Director of Chive Charities), wrote a story about his journey with the organization from the day it was founded 10 years ago to today. He spotlighted the 500+ recipients we’ve helped and the incredible donors like you who make it all possible. And then he talked about something else.

He talked about the hardest part of our work - determining how many applicants can be approved based on our budget. 

All have a need. All have nowhere else to turn. But not all can be a yes, and the excruciating task of moving names from “maybe” to “no” never gets any easier. Every time, we’re grateful for the yes’s that lift our spirits and help us keep moving forward…and yet, the “maybe’s” stay with us.

Six months ago, Nathan Dibona was one of them. 

At the start of the year, we met a mother-son duo from Joliet, Illinois who were in desperate need of a wheelchair-accessible van. Nathan and his mom, Melissa, wrote to us about their journey, detailing the challenges that have enveloped Nathan’s life since his diagnosis of congenital Myasthenia Gravis, a disease that causes muscle weakness that worsens with physical exertion.

Melissa first realized something was wrong when he was six months old. Thankfully, they were connected with Dr. Kuntz, a neurologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Other doctors had considered a muscular dystrophy diagnosis, but Dr. Kuntz pushed for more answers, performing a muscle biopsy. Those results determined Nathan’s actual condition - and at the time, only he and one other child had been diagnosed in the U.S.

Today, if Nathan tries to exercise or move too often, it can sideline him for the rest of the day. He’s now 11 years old and already 5’5” and 195 pounds. Lifting him in and out of a vehicle or trying to carry him from room to room is out of the question. And more often than not, his muscles are so weak and so fatigued that he can’t do it himself. 

It was clear they needed help. But with so many applicants facing unfathomable hardships and adversity - just like them - we were forced to place them in the “maybe” column. We hoped that we would have the funds to meet their need…we just didn’t know when. 

Several months went by, and Nathan and Melissa tried to carry on as usual. 

Nathan is smart, witty, and generally “on top of everything.” Like most pre-teens, he spends a majority of his freetime on Fortnite, listening to music, and playing sports. It looks a little different for Nathan, but he gets out there with the other kids to participate in baseball, soccer, and karate. 

Last year, Melissa told us, he begged her to let him sign up for band. They’re now the proud owners of a bass drum, which Melissa almost immediately regretted once he started practicing.

“If it makes him happy, though, I’ll do it,” she told us.

For Melissa, those aren’t just words. She does everything she can to give him a good life, despite all they’ve been handed. It hasn’t been an easy road. 

A few years ago, they lived in a big, beautiful home with her mom and stepdad. But after her mom’s unexpected death, her stepfather forced them to leave. 

Melissa took her young son to a shelter, busting her butt to get them back on their feet. Today, they have a place of their own and she works a steady job. “It seems like no matter how much I do or how much I work, we still don’t have quite enough,” she told us. “We can get by, but we can’t get ahead.”

Take their current van, for example. It’s a 2001 Chrysler Town and Country ADA van with 132,000 miles. 

Along with the fact that it was discontinued six years ago, the van is in pretty horrible condition. It’s been repaired twice in the last year, and the mechanic told Melissa that there’s nothing else that can be done. It also does not have functioning headlights, air conditioning, or a heater. And did we mention that they live 30 miles outside of Chicago? It’s not exactly an area known for its mild and temperate climate.

Honestly, they might have been able to keep slogging along had those been the only hurdles. But this year, Nathan will need spinal surgery - and when Melissa realized their van might not be able to get them to the specialist safely, that’s when she reached back out to us.

“I just don’t know what to do,” she wrote. “Please. I pray every night you find it in your heart and in your budget to help us. You can have the van we have and a motorchair Nathan used to have. Anything, take anything, and bless another child. That’s what truly matters. Thank you for your time.”

We were beyond humbled by her words, but still weren’t sure if we would have enough to grant their request or the several other families who were waiting for the final word. 

And then, somewhere along the way, one moment changed everything. One nearly imperceptible flap of wings and a tidal wave of hope rushed through.

Donors like you answered our call for help. Despite all the turmoil and uncertainty in the world, you’ve stuck with us - and after one of the most difficult financial times in our organization’s history, you responded with enough donations to right the ship and reset our course. 

Because of you, we were able to turn some of those maybe’s into a yes. Because of you, we were able to call Melissa and Nathan and say, “Don’t worry about the van. You’re getting the help you need.” 

Nathan went out to see for himself.

And it was real. Thanks to our friends and partners at AMS Vans, a new 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan wheelchair-accessible van was delivered to their home last week. The total impact was $49,591.

But that’s just a number. The real impact was so much more.

When you think of Chive Charities and your donation to support our incredible recipients, remember families like Melissa and Nathan. It’s easy to think that $10, $20, even $50 won’t make a difference. But it makes all the difference. 

It was enough to get them a van. It was enough to give them the sense of safety and comfort they haven’t had in years. It was enough to outshine all the things that have gone wrong and become the one thing that has gone right. 

It was enough.

When you make a donation to Chive Charities, whether you give every month as part of our Green Ribbon Fund or through a one-time donation, you have the capacity to create real, meaningful change. It just happened for Nathan and Melissa, turning a maybe to a yes. And with your help, it’ll keep happening for others like them. One seemingly insignificant moment that can change everything. A small flap and a tidal wave of hope. Flutter, flutter. DONATE HERE

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