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Home for the Holidays

By Staff | Dec 4, 2015

Two years ago, Charyse Smith dropped her daughter off at school before heading to an area in southwest Cape Coral to search for rental homes for her family.

Finding herself in the 1300 block of Southwest Sixth Avenue, she stopped to admire an eagle’s nest. Smith wished her family could own a home in the area, but the realities of their situation prevented it.

Smith’s daughter, Kayla, has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. When she was born, she suffered significant trauma and life-threatening issues that resulted in permanent brain damage. Smith, a U.S. Air Force veteran, cares for her daughter full-time, which leaves her husband as the only provider.

With a limited income, the family of four was unable to purchase its own home.

Fast forward two years and the Smiths stood outside a new home under construction on Thursday located at 1420 S.W. Sixth Ave., a stone’s throw from the nest that Smith once delighted in.

The home being built – it is for them.

“I couldn’t ever dream of this happening,” Smith said, sharing her story with an audience of at least 200. “It’s amazing how everything is coming together. There’s so many connections.”

The home for Smith and her husband, Brad – parents of Logan, 11, and Kayla, 9 – is being constructed by the Lee Building Industry Association’s Builders Care, in partnership with Lennar.

Builders Care provides no-cost emergency home repair and renovation services to needy elderly, disabled and economically disadvantaged homeowners. Since being founded in 2005, it has invested $3.7 million back into the local community. The Smith home marks Builders Care’s 251st project.

“This family has continued to face a significant amount of hardship,” Fred Barry, one of the past presidents of the group, said on Thursday. “This is a way to give back to the community.”

The 2,032-square-foot home will feature three big bedrooms and three bathrooms. Handicap-accessible, it has been adapted to include wide hallways and doors, with area to maneuver Kayla’s wheelchair. The two-car garage was designed with a wheelchair ramp into the house for ease.

Kayla is 100 percent dependent on her family for her daily care.

Smith takes her to therapy sessions several days a week and weekly doctor appointments, and she attends school tutoring sessions at Patriot Elementary School. In 2013, Kayla underwent a double hip replacement and now needs back surgery and the placement of a permanent rod to help her sit up.

“Every day, there are stressors,” Smith said.

She explained that as her daughter grows, Kayla will need bigger equipment, which will cost more money. At some point in the future, when her daughter is older, a lift will be required for Kayla.

“Not having to move every two years, it’s a blessing,” Smith said.

“I almost feel not worthy of this,” she added.

Several local officials came out for the project’s kick off, including City Manager John Szerlag. He explained that there was only a flat piece of dirt a week ago, compared to the shell now standing.

“Paul (Dickson) has guaranteed we are not going to hold up any inspections,” he said referring to the the city’s chief building official.

Builders Care hopes to have the home ready for the Smiths by Christmas.

Darin McMurray, regional vice president for Lennar, called the family all heroes.

“Because they are, they truly are,” he said on Thursday.

“We’ve had some success in our lives, and it’s our turn to give back,” McMurray added.

Despite the hardships that the Smiths have faced, the couple has found a way to turn them into something positive. Going into its third year, Run4Kayla features a 5K walk and run, wheelchair dash and fun run. Proceeds benefit the Special Equestrians and Patriot’s Special Needs Department.

“The motivation for the run was no limits, no rules,” Smith said.

“It’s open to everybody,” she added.

Smith was enlisted in the Air Force from 1996 to 2000. A member of the Canine Security Bomb Detection Unit, she served tours in Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during her active duty.