Habitat for Humanity volunteers help build wheelchair ramp for 12-year-old Prosser girl

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJune 29, 2014 

Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity Tri-Cities build a wheelchair ramp at the home of Sofia Martinez, 12, of Prosser. She has a neuro-degenerative disease that will eventually limit her mobility.

COURTESY RENE MARTINEZ

Habitat for Humanity Tri-Cities recently helped a 12-year-old Prosser girl and her family so that their home is better equipped to meet her future needs.

Workers built a wheelchair ramp for Sofia Martinez, who will rely on it as her rare neuro-degenerative disease limits her mobility.

The family said in a release they were grateful for Habitat's help, and officials with the group said they are evaluating other ways they could help the family.

"We're hoping to go forward," said Crystal Carter, project manager.

Sofia has Batten disease. It was discovered in 2011 after she progressively lost her eyesight over several months and was declared legally blind.

The disease is rare but terminal, eventually leading to seizures, muscle atrophy and dementia in diagnosed children. Most patients don't live past their early 20s, said officials.

Though Sofia is still mobile, including being able to ride a bike, her mother Rene Martinez wanted to plan for the future. So a member of her prayer group encouraged her to apply to Habitat's Home Preservation Program.

Carter said the program helps families with various home projects, including landscaping, plumbing and roofing.

More than 25 volunteers went to the Martinez home, including some from three Prosser churches, to build the ramp.

A group of Areva employees from the Tri-Cities also worked on the project, and Areva donated the materials. In the end, the Martinez family donated $100 to Habitat to have a $4,000 wheelchair ramp installed, Carter said.

"This was something our family needed and yet I had no way to do it on my own," Rene Martinez said. "I am so grateful to all the volunteers."

The family wants to next renovate a bathroom in the home to be handicap accessible. Carter said

Habitat is soliciting sponsorships to help the family and anyone interested should call 509-943-5555.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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