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Local boy selling decorations for Spina Bifida

Donovan Ellis, age 8 of Verbena, is raising awareness and fundraising for the Spina Bifida Association of Alabama. Ellis, a student at Clanton Elementary, was born with Spina Bifida, a type of neural tube defect that occurs when a baby’s neural tube fails to develop or close properly. Because of Donovan’s diagnosis he is unable to walk and is paralyzed from the waist down. Each year, Donovan enjoys fundraising for the Spina Bifida Association, which supports Alabama families that have the disorder by helping to provide camp excursions that have inclusive activities such as a swimming pool, skiing and boat rides. Throughout the year, the association also helps families cover the cost of hotel needs during crisis procedures, hosts a Christmas party and provides overall support for the families. However, last year because of Donovan’s ongoing medical needs, he had eight medical procedures (totaling 21 surgeries he has had in all), which left him unable to fundraise.

“People need to know that having Spina Bifida is hard,” Donovan said. “My arms hurt from pushing the wheelchair. This is for a good cause.”

To make up for the lost time, Donovan’s family is working together to support his Spina Bifida fundraising campaign. Jacob and Larry Ellis, Donovan’s father and grandfather, are making wooden Christmas yard decorations and selling them to the community. All proceeds sold by Nov. 1 will be given to the Spina Bifida Association of Alabama. Donovan has set his fundraising goal at $2,000.

“The wooden characters you see in yards at Christmas time is something that my mother, Lola started when I was a child,” Jacob said. “She made sure that Christmas time was decorated and a special time for all of us. No matter what age you are, when you come home and pull in the driveway and see Mickey Mouse or Goofy, it makes your day a little brighter.”

Since then, it has become a family tradition totally 25 years of making yard art characters. Jacob says he also enjoys spending the extra time with his father.

The Ellis Family has specifically made three sets of the “Grinch and Max” to be sold for $300, but the Ellis family will take orders for other favorite characters. Characters that he has previously made or currently working on include: Mickey Mouse and his train, a Nativity, Santa and his reindeer, Cindy Lou Who, “The Nightmare before Christmas” and Calvin & Hobbes.

Jacob and Larry give each character multiple coats of paint, so that they will last for multiple years.

Despite his diagnosis, Donovan is very active and enjoys playing basketball at Lakeshore and NXG Karate with Michael Bateman in Clanton. The Ellis family hopes that more activities for children with Spina Bifida will become available in Chilton County and are eager to talk with local leaders and organizers on how to add more inclusivity.

“There is not much inclusivity for kids with Spina Bifida in Chilton County,” said Jacob Ellis. “We drive all the way to Lakeshore, so Donovan can play basketball with a team there. I know that there are several other families in the county that would benefit from it as well. We would love to see more resources and extracurricular activities added to Chilton County for the families that have Spina Bifida and live here. Our family would love to be part of that process, whether it is adding things at the park playground or a local sports team. Every child needs the opportunity to feel like a child.”

For more information on how to order yard art characters, contact Jacob Ellis through Facebook at “Chilton Yard Art” or 205-258-6108. Businesses or organizations that would like to learn more about Spina Bifida inclusivity can contact Samantha Ellis at 205-217-2057. If you would like to make a donation directly, please visit www.secure.frontstream.com/10th-annual-montgomery-walk-n-roll/team/923506 , hit “Search” and type “Donovan Ellis.”

All orders received after Nov. 1 will go towards Donovan’s medical needs and transportation.