FREDERICK, Colo. — For Father’s Day, a Weld County dad said his one wish would be to find a cure for his children.
Richard Romito and his wife Jamie have four sons. Their oldest is away at college. The younger three, Dominic, 15, Collin, 9, and Kaleb, 7, live at home and have been diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The disease causes muscle degeneration. There is no treatment and no cure for DMD.
“They stop walking between the ages of 8 and 12. They’re on breathing machines in their late teens and their life expectancy right now is late teens to mid-20’s,” Richard Romito said.
Richard and Jamie started a nonprofit called The Romito Foundation to help kids with DMD feel normal. The money raised pays for summer camps, sporting events and other social activities for about 30 Colorado families.
Now, though, the Romitos need help for their own family.
“We don’t have a functional home for three boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” Romito said.
When Dominic’s disease started progressing in 2014, the teen wasn’t able to get up or down the stairs safely. The family was forced to get rid of their two-story home in Firestone in a short sale.
They moved into a ranch-style rental in Frederick. Dominic began using a wheelchair full time in March 2015. Collin could have to go into a wheelchair soon and Kaleb will soon follow.
Romito said they can manage with Dominic’s wheelchair, but the home will not fit three wheelchairs.
“It’s very small for one chair, you know, nicking on the doors and the walls,” he said.
The average width halls, corners, doors and baseboards were badly damaged as Dominic learned how to maneuver in his chair. They have a ramp at the front door, but Dominic can’t get out the back door.
Richard lifts the teenager in and out of his chair when he has to shower, use the bathroom or get into bed. Together, the two barely fit through the doorways. Jamie uses a lift, but it does not fit in their average-size bathroom.
The Romitos need a wheelchair-accessible home. While some do exist, they have not been able to find anything that can handle three wheelchairs. They need to build a custom home to accommodate the boys, which will run around $500,000.
The problem is, the Romitos can’t afford that big of a mortgage. Richard works overtime as a police officer, but the family says it cannot save enough by the time all three boys are in chairs.
“It creeped up on us. I wasn’t prepared. I mean, let’s be honest. We didn’t see it coming as fast as it did. We thought we’d have more time,” Richard said.
So, they asking for help. They don’t want anything fancy. They just want a home that is accessible and big enough for their three special needs boys.
They need zero-depth entry doors and showers, accessible sinks, wider hallways and doorways and lifts to move the boys. They say they home would improve the boys’ safety and quality of life, so they can live full lives in the short time they have left.