Many viewers responded to the story about boy named Joel and his adoptive mother, Paula.
Last week, the I-Team brought you exclusive reports how Joel was abused so badly, he now needs around the clock care and uses a wheelchair to get around. Paula has dedicated her life to Joel.
A prosecutor has been trying to raise money to help Joel and Paula get a wheelchair accessible van.
Paula Cheney’s dedication to her adoptive son Joel knows no bounds.
At 2-months-old, he was placed in Paula’s home through protective custody after he was beaten but Joel was placed back with his mother two years later and was abused again.
A second beating left the once healthy child unable to walk and needing around the clock care. Paula adopted Joel and his older sister who was not physically harmed.
“My heart’s desire is to make sure that this little boy has the best opportunity and the best that life has to offer,” Cheney said, Joel’s adoptive mother.
Jacqueline Bluth who prosecuted Joel’s mother for child abuse has stayed in touch with the family. She has helped with Christmas gifts and support for Paula as she cares for Joel.
“I think she deserves so much more than I could ever offer,” Bluth said.
The chief deputy district attorney noticed how Paula who is 72 years old, struggles to transport Joel who relies on his wheelchair. He’s 10 years old and weighs about 80 pounds.
“They need a wheelchair accessible van,” Bluth said.
And as the I-Team reported, Bluth has been trying to raise money for it. The I-Team’s two stories on how the system failed Joel and Paula’s dedication to the boy got the attention of viewers like Paul Jaramillo.
“We were touched by the story and having used mobility vehicles for years, we know how easy it makes your life,” Paul Jaramillo said.
Paul lost his ability to walk about five years ago after a being diagnosed with PLS, Primary Lateral Sclerosis, which progressively causes weakness in muscles. The disease has also taken his voice.
Paul’s son, James, also uses a wheelchair due to an accident 14 years ago.
The family which runs Par 3 Landscaping and Maintenance, a longtime and successful Las Vegas business, contacted the I-Team to say Paul would buy Paula and Joel a van.
“I’m so grateful that this story impacted my dad to the extent that it did and we’re able to be involved now,” David Jaramillo said.
So, the I-Team visited Paula Monday, one week after the first story aired for what she thought was an update on how the community responded with comments and calls.
“I’m telling you it’s just been really good, surprising,” Cheney said.
Paula didn’t know who or what was waiting outside. She answered a knock at the door and Jacqueline Bluth brought her outside to see her new van.
“So, this right here is yours,” Bluth said.
Paula began crying. Joel laughed and smiled. The Jaramillo family watched.
“So, Paula, he saw you on the news and he was so moved that he went and bought you this van,” Bluth said.
“He did. Thank you so much. Thank you,” Cheney said.
Life will be different for Paula and Joel now with this 2016 Honda Odyssey. He won’t be confined to school and home anymore. It’s a gift probably best understood by the Jaramillo family.
“It’s something that hits close to home for our family. My dad watched the broadcast last week on the news that Vanessa did about your situation and was touched and wanted to do something,” David Jaramillo said.
“Well I appreciate it. I really do. I just don’t have the words to show how appreciative..,” Cheney said.
“You don’t need any words. Just take the keys,” Jaramillo said.
In addition to the Jaramillo’s, 8 News Now viewers donated more than $50,000 to a GoFundMe account created by Jacqueline Bluth called “Wheels for Joel.”
“We set up the fund with an idea of getting the van. Thank you to the Jaramillo’s, we didn’t have to use that money, so I’m setting up a trust that we can put that money in for his future treatment or for your needs in taking care of him,” Bluth said.
The GoFundMe page remains active for anyone else who would like to contribute for Joel’s care. Prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth says for anyone who has donated and wants their money back since the Jaramillos paid for the van, they can contact her and she will refund them.