Our son, Joseph, was born on April 17, 1990 and passed on January 2, 2010, but in that short amount of time he gained friends locally and around the world through the creation of his own organization.
At the age of sixteen, Joseph created The Wheeled Scotsman Foundation. This foundation was developed by Joseph in response to the difficulties he and our family faced while battling Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
On the day Joey was born, I remember looking down to the biggest set of brown eyes I had ever seen. Instantly, I began thinking about all of the things a father would think of. What type of sports will he play? How am I going to pay for college? Will I have grandchildren some day? From the time he was able to talk, he never stopped asking why and always found a way to accomplish what he set out to do. He was very inquisitive and interested in everything.
However, it was not long after his fifth birthday when my wife and I began to notice changes in Joey’s physical abilities. His walking became increasingly slower and getting up from the ground became more difficult for him. His teachers took notice of these changes and difficulties as well. That was when the endless tests began. I will never forget the day when my wife told me the diagnosis for Joey was Muscular Dystrophy. My thoughts turned from playing sports and paying for college to how long I would have with my son.
Throughout his life, he never stopped being the Joey we all knew and loved. He never dwelled on his condition and never asked the question, “Why me.” He always found a way to have fun and enjoy himself. Sometimes it was playing softball (getting around the bases took a little help from me) or seeing how fast he could go in his wheelchair at the mall (his mother never liked this).
At the age of eight, he began using a power chair. We attempted ice skating with this new chair and he even was able to pull me along! He quickly realized there was space behind him in the chair and his little brother even took a ride. Nothing stopped him from enjoying every moment that he was given.
One challenge that we faced as a family was making our home accessible for Joey and his wheelchair. Some may not realize that it is not only difficult to maneuver outside, but in your own home too. It was not easy.
We did a lot of work just to find out that we either did it wrong or that in a year’s time he could not use what we built due to the MD further deteriorating his physical abilities. What we also discovered was that the insurance companies did not pay for many of the home modifications Joey needed to maintain his independence within our own home. Fortunately, we were surrounded by many friends and family members who were willing to give us a hand.
In 2003, after years of working on our home to make it more accessible for Joey, we had a fire due to his medical bed malfunctioning. Thankfully, this happened when everyone was at school. Ironically enough, it was because of the fire that we were finally able to have our home modified to meet Joey’s needs.
The fire in our home was devastating to all of us and it was the first time I ever saw Joey down and out. It took him some time but being the Joey that we all knew and loved his spirits soon lifted.
Shortly after, he was watching a news program about a young lady who was looking for help to have her home modified for a wheelchair. It was then that Joey looked at me and said, “Dad, there should be a place where people can go to find help.” At that moment, Joey came up with the idea to create a foundation which would help individuals with disabilities pay for renovations and modifications to their homes to make them more accessible. Shortly after, the Joseph Harper’s Wheeled Scotsman foundation was created.
After the first year of Joey’s hard work, the foundation was able to help just one family. This may have stopped some people, but not Joey. He started something small and he worked tirelessly to see it succeed.
There were times when I thought the foundation wouldn’t be able to help a particular family; Joey would always look up at me and say, “There is always a way to help.”
When he was not working on something for the foundation, he was talking to people about the foundation or about his life in a wheelchair and his brave fight with MD all from a brown chair that remains in our home today. Even up until he passed away three years ago, Joey never stopped thinking of others. It is because of his efforts, dedication and love for others that we carry on his mission by finding a way to help. When I feel like something can’t be done, I look at that brown chair and I find a way.
The Wheeled Scotsman Foundation has been in existence for seven years and is an approved, not-for-profit giving organization that empowers the physically disabled with the gift of mobility and the right to independence within the community. Since its creation, the foundation has provided families with pool lifts, a handicap accessible van, full size ramps, bathroom renovations and doorway modifications.
Each year the foundation has grown and to date the foundation runs three fundraising events. Two of the events were created by Joseph started himself.
The first is a family fun 5k run and family walk, The Black Sheep Run, held each spring. The second event, which evolved from Joey’s love for soccer, is our Scotsman Cup which is an all day soccer event also held each spring. The third event, held each October, is The Great Dinner and Dance Halloween Costume Party. This year the event will take place on Saturday, October 20, at Ann's Choice, 7 p.m. to midnight. All of these events are held in Warminster in honor of Joseph “Joey” Harper; a brave young man that never stopped thinking of others and never stopped saying, “There is always a way to help.”
To seek help, donate or for more information please visit our website: www.wheeledscotsman.org