Campground pulls together to help spina bifida and epilepsy sufferer

By Brenda Maguire
Item Correspondent

On June 11, the Pennsylvania Dutch Camp-ground in Bernville will be helping a disabled 15-year-old’s family in their Extreme Makeover Pa. Dutch Camp-ground Edition.

The program was intended to help seniors with health and financial problems spruce up their campsites. When learning about the health problems of Franki Steckel, the family was immediately elected to be in the program.

“This just all came to light about two weeks ago. It’s a new family; they really hardly know anybody because they didn’t bring their trailer in until after we closed for the season,” said Carolee Powell, president of the campground. “Once we heard the situation with the young man and the family we wanted to help. We’ve gotten a wonderful response from our own camping community.”

Franki has spina bifida, agenesis of the corpus callosum, tethered cord syndrome and epilepsy. After suffering a stroke at the age of two, Franki has limited use of his left hand. He is also unable to speak and must use a communication device.

Since his most recent two seizures in January, Franki has been unable to stand, walk or crawl on his own.

“He’s basically learned to walk, this will be his sixth time, because when he has a seizure that sets him back, he basically has to learn everything all over again,” said Marlene Steckel, Franki’s mother.

Franki is no longer able to get into the new camper his family just purchased in the fall.

The main goal of the project is to build a deck and ramp so Franki can get in the camper.

“We (began) the construction of the deck (over the) weekend and then (this) weekend is when, if all goes to plan, we are hopefully going to be able to bring the family in by limousine and do the unveiling that Saturday morning,” said Powell.

Marlene Steckel only knows that a makeover is being done, but was not told what the plans were.

“I didn’t find out until (last) Monday. They really just said that they had decided to pick us,” said Steckel. “Really, the only reason Carolee had called was so we wouldn’t go camping until they were done. They were trying to do it as a surprise but they were afraid I would come.”

Fundraisers such as a 50-50 raffle and bingo nights, as well as general contributions have been promoted over the last few weeks to raise funds for the project.

“I think it’s absolutely unbelievable. I don’t even know what to say,” said Steckel. “I don’t even know all these people that are doing this, and it’s been unbelievable.”

Any extra money left over will go to Franki’s medical payments or toward any of Franki’s special interests, such as video games or sports.

“The story itself has touched the hearts of many,” said Powell. “I feel really proud that our camping community has come together to help a fellow camper that they hardly even know. It’s really been amazing.”
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