Local support lessens struggle for a child

KINGSTON — This summer’s progress of Brandon Rowan’s health is impressing his mother every day. But what impresses Crickett Rowan even more is the support from the community her family has received as they struggle through her middle child’s toddler years.

Brandon has a condition called Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum in which the connection between the two hemispheres of the brain is missing.

He cannot hold his body up by himself and must be fed through a tube to his stomach every three hours. Brandon communicates through body language and some verbal noises, but cannot speak clearly.

With husband and father Keith Rowan out-to-sea with the Navy until early November, the family has been struggling to accommodate Brandon’s needs without the proper equipment.

But through help from family, friends and strangers, the Rowans achieved one goal this summer — raising $17,500 to purchase a full-size handicapped-accessible van.

The effort was started by family friends Don Sparks and Cherri Gentry of Bremerton shortly after Brandon’s third birthday in May. Crickett had found an ad for the van and showed it to Sparks and Gentry. Without her knowing, the two then started a campaign effort to raise the cash needed.

Through bake sales, car washes, garage sales and support from local businesses, the family was able to buy a 1997 full-size Dodge van several weeks ago, complete with a mechanical ramp and space for Brandon’s new wheelchair.

“We like it,” Crickett said. “It’s cool.”

The last $300 was a struggle though, as Crickett had to use her husband’s recent paycheck for the final payment.

But to make up that out-of-pocket expense, a Mary Kay consultant who attends the Rowan’s church will be donating all the proceeds from one of her sessions this weekend to the family. This summer’s effort to raise money for the van brought out good souls in the Kingston and Bremerton communities.

“Crickett is a tough, tough cookie,” Gentry said about why she and Sparks decided to spearhead such an effort.

For all the people who have helped her and Sparks in years past, it was time to do something nice for someone else, Gentry explained.

“It just seemed like a good way to get good karma going,” she added.

“He has made a lot of friends in the community. It’s restored our faith in people,” Crickett said of the support. “It’s like having a second family — everyone has been so nice to us.”

“We get phone calls from people in the middle of the evening saying ‘We read about Brandon and wanted to tell you what a good job you are doing,’” she added. “That helps a lot.”

Another milestone for the family was Brandon’s recent first week of pre-school in a special education class at Wolfle Elementary School.

“He gets on the bus in the morning on his wheelchair and gets back on the bus in the afternoon, just like any other kid,” Crickett said. “He comes home in a very good mood.”

The teachers at Wolfle are doing occupational and speech therapy with him, as well as enforcing socialization with other kids.

“We’ve asked them to treat him as normal as possible so he can interact with other kids,” Crickett explained.

Brandon’s communication skills have progressed “like crazy” over the summer and he is making more verbal sounds and laughing more, she said.

“He’s reaching for things, grabbing things, giving hugs and kisses,” Crickett noted. “He’s just changed a lot.”

But just like any other mom, she said she had a hard time with Brandon’s first week of school.

“It is very, very scary,” she said. “I cried all week last week. But it’s good for him. I know (the teachers) can be consistent with him. He’s just like any other kid. He needs to be around other people. He needs to see what the world has.”

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