H.A.L.O. Makes A “Huge” Difference

The Nightingale Family enjoys time together at a recent road race.
The Nightingale Family enjoys time together at a recent road race.
Even though Eric Nightingale can’t walk or talk due to severe neurological impairment following premature birth, he skis, skates, “runs” road races, and is training for a mini-triathlon in partnership with his Dad.

His family says his ability to participate in these activities has increased his alertness and body stability, and enabled him to be accepted as “one of the kids.”

The H.A.L.O. Foundation’s assistance in building a recreational wheelchair and providing a motor lift in their home has been instrumental in improving his son’s quality of life, says Jerry Nightingale.

About three years ago the Nightingales had the opportunity to meet Rick and Dick Hoyt, a father who pushes his adult son’s wheelchair in the Boston Marathon and other runs to raise money for charities. Inspired by their closeness, Jerry, a recreational athlete, began to push Eric in local events using a hand-me-down jogger (stroller).

Eric responded enthusiastically, but when he outgrew the jogger -- he is now 12 years old and weighs 90 pounds -- the family discovered that a custom recreational wheelchair could cost $20,000 or more. H.A.L.O. matched funds raised by the Nightingales and other sources to allow Jerry to purchase parts and rebuild a used chair.

The “new” chair has disc brakes, multiple cross sections, cushions, and an articulated back to make it flexible, according to Jerry. Its exceptional lightness has enabled him to take Eric mountain biking over rough terrain and play on baseball and basketball teams for children with disabilities.

Eric goes skating with the bike H.A.L.O. funded.
“It’s made a huge difference for our son to have access to “normal” activities,” Jerry said. “I work from home Tuesdays and have been able to help him participate in his middle school running club. They added a wheelchair class for Eric and this opened the door for other students, too.”

“The biggest piece of this is . . . the individuals who work with him at school say Eric has grown tremendously this year. . . He has developed physically, improved his ability to scan with his eyes and hold up his [body] and is constantly looking around,” said Jerry. “He’s very interactive and uses his fingers to communicate yes and no.”

Since the intensity of running is the only thing that changed in the past year, Jerry said they all credit the activity for Eric’s improved ability to focus. Jerry concedes that he and Eric’s Mom, Elizabeth, have had to overcome fears about possible injury “but the benefits are so great, we will challenge him as much as he can tolerate.”

Jerry says Eric’s visibility in their Eastern Massachusetts town “has changed community culture. It’s a gift from him to us, and to anyone else trying to participate,” Jerry said. “He is an awesome guy and we are lucky parents.”

Visit www.halo.org to make a donation or to request assistance.