Dale Dyke’s bedroom is going through an awkward phase. Located just down the hall from the kitchen, the 16-year-old’s room is a face that’s waiting to grow into its nose. Most of the horse decals grafted onto the wall have been covered by posters for “The Walking Dead” or “Suicide Squad.” The presence of a large stuffed teddy bear sitting in one corner has been counterbalanced by the very life-like replica of a human skull perched in the other.
“Adolescence” is not typically a word that’s thrown around a whole lot in interior decorating but it would seem to apply here. Dale and her mother, Robyn, have plans to execute a formal redesign at some point, but in the interim each would prefer that Dale begin spending more of her time out in the real world, where opportunities to interact socially with other human beings multiply rapidly.
“Maybe get in trouble. Come home late. I would like that,” Robyn said.
She’s not talking about real trouble — just the typical teenage variety that would probably qualify more as “hijinks” if push came to shove. Dale doesn’t get to engage in very many hijinks. She was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, type III — more commonly referred to as “brittle bone disease.”
Sports are off the table (more than 150 broken bones in a lifetime will do that for you). Other clubs were abandoned after Dale encountered problems with a few students. At 16 years old she wants to drive, and even that is proving difficult without a car that’s designed to accommodate her wheelchair.
For her it’s about independence, about late night drives with the music cranked up and a whole bigger, broader world out there that she wants to explore.
“I could probably hang with a lot more people and probably have more friends,” Dale said.
A teacher at Bald Eagle Area High school helped Dale draft her first resume so that she could apply for a part-time cashier job at Wegmans. It’s been a good experience so far. The other employees are nice and Dale enjoys making small talk with people over a carton of milk and assorted deli meats. Plus, two-thirds of each paycheck goes toward the cost of a car.
Robyn and her husband take turns driving Dale from Milesburg to Wegmans’ State College location on Colonnade Blvd. To conserve gas, they’ll usually spend the better part of a 4- or 5-hour shift napping in the parking lot or exploring one of the nearby shops.
Robyn alternates between wanting Dale to get out into the world and being terrified of what could happen when she does.
“When she goes off to work I try not to think about it,” Robyn said.
She wants Dale to have a car and the freedom that comes with it, though. A GoFundMe page with a goal of $10,000 has been set up at www.gofundme.com/yjv82. Outside of money, they are willing to accept any help or advice that people have to offer.
Sometimes being independent takes a little bit of help.
“I’m just excited to be on my own,” Dale said.