Company responds to State College family’s plea to make bathroom more accessible

bmilazzo@centredaily.comJuly 21, 2013 

— Chris Wolf couldn’t have been happier when he found out earlier this month that Kohler Co. donated more than $4,375 worth of bathroom equipment to help make it more accessible for his family.

“He was just standing on top of the stairwell not moving a muscle, listening to Kohler on the other end of the phone,” said Chris’ mother, Cindy Wolf. “He immediately said ‘wow, that’s so nice of them. Oh, mom, I can’t believe it!’ and was already on top of writing a thank you note.”

Cindy Wolf is a widowed mother of three disabled children — Tim, 20, who she described as “gifted;” Chris, 18, a State College Area High School graduate diagnosed with autism, microcephaly and a mild case of cerebral palsy; and daughter Rachel, 15, who has similar disabilities as Chris.

“We’ve been having issues with our bathroom in our home not being safe, healthy and accessible for them. And it’s extremely small,” Wolf said. “With Christopher, this bathroom has been a point of discussion in our household for the last few years. It’s something he would talk about a few times a day.”

Wolf said her children would sometimes trip getting out of the tub and often had a hard time securing the shower, causing mild flooding in the room, which would build to other hazardous outcomes.

“It’s to a point where they’re getting older and being able to have adaptive equipment that’s safe, can help them become more independent,” Wolf said.

Living under a program through Centre County that Wolf said “put her family through the ringer” when it came to applying for waiver funding, became a hassle, and when she said the county didn’t come through, another option became available.

“We were really irked with the county and Christopher came across this article about a boy who was obsessed with this Kohler toilet and sent a letter to Kohler about it,” Wolf said. “Chris was like, ‘mom, why don’t we write a letter to Kohler too?’ ”

After weeks of hounding Wolf to to write the letter, Wolf said by February, Chris came up with the words in the letter, while she typed it up.

“I felt funny about it, but was like ‘sure.’ We thought it would be a little unrealistic, but gave it a shot anyway,” Wolf added.

When months passed without hearing back from Kohler, Wolf said in her heart, she gave up hope, but by May, a Kohler representative contacted her back.

“He just said he was impressed with our story and what Chris had to say,” Wolf said.

Kohler confirmed that a representative later came to the Wolf household to take measurements of the bathroom and hear the Wolfs’ story firsthand.

“She came out to see the scope of the project, and we assumed they would help us with a minor thing here or there, not what they really did,” Wolf said. “We waited a while again to hear back and finally got the phone call.”

About a week ago, Wolf said David Earley, a Kohler tech support representative, contacted the Wolfs with news that they would be getting a total of 17 items for the bathroom.

“He said one thing and I thanked him, and he said back, ‘wait, but there’s more,’ and I was just blown away,” Wolf said.

Wolf said Chris spent months researching different toilets, tubs and other necessities that fit his and his sister’s specific needs — some of which were donated by Kohler that included a urinal, toilet bidet and shower equipment that would make it easier for the kids.

“Yes, Mr. Kohler read the letter and sent it down to us to take care of her and her family,” Earley said. “The story pulled on all of our heartstrings.”

Earley said by the end of this week, all equipment should be shipped to Wolfs’ State College home.

“Kohler has come through way beyond what we expended. They really met a need for us that others may not understand, and it’s touching that they would go to those lengths to help,” Wolf said.

Even though all the items aren’t yet in, some volunteers have already offered their service to assemble it, but a few more, Wolf said, wouldn’t hurt.

“Everyone’s been really amazing, and we can’t be more thankful,” she said.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @M11azzo.

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