NORTHGLENN, Colo. -- A company has donated a new wheelchair to a high school student with muscular dystrophy whose previous wheelchair was in dire need of repair.
The FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers introduced 17-year-old Cesar Malagon in March. He said his wheelchair was a mess with a broken command system, worn-down tires and an unreliable battery.
He had one wish for graduation day: To cross the stage with his classmates in a working wheelchair.
Staff at Northglenn High School initially reached out to the Problem Solvers. They said while most teenagers want a party or money to celebrate graduation, Cesar just wanted a wheelchair that works.
Just days after his 18th birthday, Cesar got a new set of wheels.
“Oh that’s cool,” Cesar said, trying out the new features.
“This is the best present he’s ever received,” Cesar’s mom said in Spanish, speaking to the Problem Solvers through a translator.
After the story aired in March, there were numerous calls and emails from people wanting to help Cesar. A power chair company, Quantum Rehab, also reached out and delivered a new, customized wheelchair for Cesar last week.
“When we see somebody in the community that we know we can help, you know, we were lucky to be in a situation where we could donate,” said David Bertz, director of Rehab at Quantuam Rehab. “And we're just happy to be involved.”
Bertz said the new wheelchair has iLevel technology, which allows the chair to be raised 10 inches.
“A lot of speed elevators cut your speed so low that when you’re with your friends or at an event, you have to lower your chair to go full speed,” Bertz said.
But Cesar’s new chair allows him to go full speed at the elevated level, Bertz said. The company also customized the paint job on the chair to match Northglenn High School's colors.
“I think it’s very exciting to get a new chair,” Cesar said. “I really like how the colors came out in this chair. It’s really cool.”
Cesar was happy to get the chair before graduation, so he had some time to practice.
Then at 2 p.m. Tuesday inside the University of Colorado Coors Events Center, Cesar had his big moment.
“I'm very excited,” Cesar said, donning his cap and gown, alongside his classmates in his new wheelchair. “I finally did it. I'm very proud.”
Lori Swanson has worked as a para professional with Cesar at the school. She was by his side for graduation.
“Super exciting and I'm so proud of him,” Swanson said. “To be able to see him do it in a new chair and feel comfortable and proud in that moment.”
So many people were touched when the Problem Solvers first aired this story. A GoFundMe page raised more than $11,000. Cesar’s family was able to buy a wheelchair-accessible van with a power lift, which they previously didn’t have. They’re also looking to get Cesar a new hospital bed.
“[I’m] very thankful to them for supporting me and being with me when I needed them,” Cesar said.