By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw
WINONA LAKE — Residents in Winona Lake are rallying behind a 12-year-old boy who suffers from Spina Bifida and is facing major surgery in March that will necessitate a bigger wheelchair to accommodate his needs.
Israel Gagnon was placed in a Bulgarian orphanage at birth and had little human contact for nearly five years other than receiving diaper changes and being fed a liquid diet, according to his adoptive mother, Stacey Gagnon.
She said her paraplegic son spent years essentially tied up in a crib and did not know how to eat solid foods or talk until after they adopted him at the age of about five.
While he’s made incredible strides after being adopted (and is now very conversive in English), he continues to face health issues.
One of his kidneys and a bladder have failed, and in March, those organs will be removed and he’ll shift from using a catheter to using a colostomy bag and urostomy bag that will hold feces and urine.
The recovery is expected to be lengthy but will be made easier by having a larger, lightweight wheel chair, which the family cannot afford and insurance will not cover.
Cost of the wheelchair is about $6,000, Stacey said.
With that in mind, Israel’s special education teacher at Jefferson Elementary, Rachel Jensen, has organized a fundraiser through the school’s existing Happy Beans coffee sales program.
Beginning Friday, sales from the school’s “Happy Beans” coffee program will go toward the cost of the wheel chair.
Friday’s kick-off event will be from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m.
That fundraiser will continue through next week. Times will be Monday, 10 to 10:45 a.m.; Tuesday through Feb. 15, 9:15 to 10 a.m.; and Friday, Feb. 16, 8:45 to 10 a.m.
Also, anyone wanting to donate can make a contribution to an account for Israel set up at Lake City Bank.
Winona Lake has certified Israel as a junior police officer and he enjoys wearing his uniform on weekends and handing out tickets in his neighborhood, Stacey said.
He’s also grown close to Sergeant Joe Bumbaugh who recently visited him in Indianapolis during difficult episode with sepis, which was caused by an infection due to the use of a catheter.
Stacey and Darren Gagnon have seven children, including five who are adopted.