LEWISTON – Charles Dieteman, “Charlie,” to his teachers and classmates, is a sixth-grade student at Lewiston-Porter Middle School who was born with cerebral palsy, a chronic condition affecting areas of the brain that control movement and muscle coordination.
But his mother, Tara McLellan, said her son is not slowed down one bit.
Charles rallied his school to raise funds for World Cerebral Palsy Day on Oct. 1, collecting and then donating more than $600 to Niagara Cerebral Palsy.
The nonprofit corporation offers 24-hour intermediate care, in-home respite, service coordination, independent living apartments, day treatment, clinical therapy, supported employment, and preschool and early childhood education.
McLellan said Charles has a mild form of cerebral palsy, but he struggles. Less than 7 percent of people with cerebral palsy have more than one type, but he has three, she said.
But cerebral palsy is not what defines the young boy, said Joy Khatib, a teacher at the Multi-Age Intermediate Education Center.
“He is widely known throughout the school for his contagious smile, kind personality and compassion towards others,” said Khatib, who said Charlie always sees the positive side to any situation.
McLellan mentioned the significance of Oct. 1 to Tina Oddy, one of Charles’ teachers and an adviser of the Lew-Port Builders Club, a volunteer group at the middle school. McLellan said they always celebrate the day at their house.
Khatib said to raise awareness about cerebral palsy, Charles’s former Multi-Age IEC class and the Builder’s Club joined forces, along with Oddy, Khatib and IEC teacher Katie Danahy’s class to organize an elementary and middle school fundraiser.
Students sold green awareness ribbon stickers for 50 cents, McLellan made green ribbons for the staff to wear, and students and teachers wore green ribbons to show support to their friend and fellow classmate.
The middle school raised $435 in one day and the elementary school raised more than $170 in three days. Oddy said one seventh-grader donated five $20 bills.
She said the generous seventh-grader just had a birthday and asked her mom if she could spend the money on whatever she wanted, and she wanted to donate it, said Oddy.
“It makes me cry every time I hear about it,” said McLellan.
Together the schools raised $605 for Niagara Cerebral Palsy.
The money will be used by the organization’s educational division to help purchase new playground equipment for the preschool’s playground renovation project.
McLellan said her son possesses every trait a parent hopes his or her child will have and makes her so proud, donating his time for story hour, helping carry books and working at the Peach Festival with Builder’s Club.
Charles was also nominated by school principal Dean Ramirez for the “Do the Right Thing” award through the Police Athletic League. He was presented the award in October.
Ramirez said there was a “sea of green” in recognition of World Cerebral Palsy Day.
“It took a lot of courage to do what Charlie did,” Ramirez said. “He made it clear that he is a normal kid with a great family and a lot of support. Coming into a new school environment, he had the will to make sure that the other kids understood his condition.”
Ramirez called the young student, “a role model to us all.”