There was no time to wait until warmer weather.
On Jan. 9, Kelby Tabb and his friends, Austin Jones, Craig Thomas and Trevor Ritchie, finished building a wheelchair ramp in frigid temperatures for the family of an 8-year-old girl, Sophia Romero, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“It was cold, but it wasn’t bad once you got moving,” Tabb said.
Tabb’s wife, Katelyn, has been friends with Sophia Romero and her family for about eight years. Sophia has a twin sister, Isabella.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a disease that causes progressive muscular degeneration and weakness. Due to the nature of the disease coupled with school and activity cancellations because of COVID-19, Sophia lost her ability to walk.
Building a ramp wasn’t in the budget for the Romero family, and Sophia’s father owns a restaurant that has been affected by pandemic shutdowns.
“All I did was basically mention it to Kelby, and two days later he was like, ‘Hey, I talked to Craig and Austin, and we’re going to build that ramp,’” Katelyn Tabb said. “I was like, ‘What? You guys don’t know how to build a handicap ramp.’ He said, ‘I’ve already looked up the 88 ADA guidelines.’ They were just set to do it.”
The four handymen designed a ramp, bought supplies, and then—over the course of three weekends in January—built a wheelchair ramp leading to the front door.
“Katelyn was basically 99.9% of the voice in all of this, and we were just the grunt labor,” Kelby Tabb said. “We’re all pretty handy and have done some projects on our own homes and helped each other. So, to be honest, we just YouTubed different builds that people have videoed and looked online for ADA guidelines. We’re looking into doing some more things regularly around the community like that. It’s all funny that it happened right before the Unleashed sermon series, and now it’s all tied in together.”
The Tabbs are members of Southeast Christian Church’s Elizabethtown Campus and were in awe of God’s timing through Southeast’s Unleashed sermon series, which walks through the book of Acts and explores how God’s power and grace unleash His people to have Kingdom impact.
“I know since Kyle (Idleman) has been preaching, that’s a big focus of his—reaching out one at a time,” Katelyn said. “His whole Mantra series got them into thinking, ‘How can we catch the wind and what are these things that we can do to help spread Christ throughout our community?’ When this situation came up, they knew, ‘We can do this. We got this.’”
The men are not only in the same men’s small group, but they also share the responsibility of raising young children.
“We’re all in a very busy phase of life,” Katelyn added. “We all have toddlers. Craig’s wife is pregnant with twins, and they have two younger kiddos. Austin and his wife have a 1-year-old and she’s pregnant. I’m not pregnant, but we have a 3-year-old and 2-year-old. So, it’s just a hectic time.”
The Romeros, who are from Nicaragua, were beyond grateful for the act of kindness.
“At first, she was like, ‘Oh no. We can figure it out,’” Katelyn said. “Then, she was worried about the weather the whole time. She was wanting to bring them coffee and make them food. She was surprised that they didn’t want any payment and wanted to do it on their own time on the weekend—to do it for no other reason than the fact that Sophia needs the help. She told me, ‘I think it’s something that helps me spread the love.’ That’s her favorite phrase in English.”
Sophia’s mom, Mildred, said God sent “angels” as a sign that He is watching over her family.
“We met Katelyn when Sophia was about 9 months old, and she has turned into family since then,” Mildred Romero said. “She has been such a huge support in this difficult process, from driving us several hours to accompany us to appointments to supporting me with words of encouragement. Since Sophia is no longer able to walk, I now function as her legs and strength, carrying her wherever she needs to go. When Katelyn said her husband and his friends wanted to build a handicap ramp for Sophia, I was extremely thankful and touched. This is such a generous act of kindness that makes it easier for us to transport her from the car to the house. This has been an enormous help since she has been getting taller and heavier. I know that God always puts angels in our lives to support us, and they have been a blessing to our family.”