NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. - In many ways, Cashel Gardner is a typical 16-year-old. He loves video games and cool Las Vegas magic tricks performed by illusionist Cris Angel.
"Cashel's already started to think about the things he wants to do as an adult," said Cashel's mother Sandy Gardner. "He's close to graduating."
That is pretty amazing, considering doctors told Sandy her little baby boy would not live past his second birthday.
"I am pretty hard-headed. When doctors told me the diagnosis, I told (them) that's not going to happen," she said.
Cashel was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). He has limited use of his fingers, but the rest of his body is paralyzed. He can't breathe, swallow or eat on his own.
"I had a baby who was happy. He couldn't move, but he still wanted to play," Sandy said.
The first few years came with their share of challenges. Instead of obstacles, however, Sandy and her husband saw choices.
"The simple things just make it a great day with us, and we're happy with that," Sandy said.
Then, the Gardner family grew. Cashel's sister Allie was born. "Allie came out. She could move, we said. She doesn't have it. She is kicking her arms and legs. She was screaming," Sandy said.
Eight weeks later, however, Allie was also diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy.
"I don't think I ever got down on that either. We do what we can," Sandy said. "It seems to me it's harder to be sad, depressed then it was to be happy and enjoy what we had."
Amidst the unmistakable sounds of medical devices, laughter fills the Gardner home - now a family of five with the youngest sibling Emily making the family complete.
"We have a sense of humor in here. That's what you have to have," Sandy said.
Cashel will tell you the same through the voice on his computer.
"My mom and dad never made me mad or sad about having SMA. They are always joking around, so I guess I am that way too. I have never been exposed to that many negative people in my life," he said.
Cashel wants to keep the positive vibes going beyond his home. He created a website that offers encouragement to families affected by SMA.
"The thing that I am most proud of in my life is a message I got from a family that said they couldn't imagine having a child on ventilation machines their entire life, because they thought they would never have a meaningful life," he said. "After seeing all the things I have been doing with mine, they now can't wait to see what their child will do."
Through all the challenges that never stopped this family from being positive, one obstacle still looms. The family desperately needs a special vehicle that can transport their new long wheelchairs, which resemble rolling beds. Cashel and Allie, now 14-years-old, can't go anyplace together.
"Cashel has definitely, since he started his page, shown interest. He's been invited to events. He wants to go and meet people, go places," Sandy said.
Cashel and Allie have never been to church, to a library or to see the ocean. A new vehicle would help Cashel, Allie, Emily, Sandy and stepfather Matthew accomplish these tasks. The vehicle will certainly help the family get everyone to necessary doctor's appointments together, instead of scheduling them separately.
The family has created a website to raise money for the special vehicle. They have raised nearly $20,000 so far. The vehicle costs $70,000.
8 News NOW is also helping the Gardner family with this effort, awarding them $800 as part of its weekly series Acts of Kindness.
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