The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 18, 2012

Her legs don't work, but 6-year-old has a good life



Madison weighed 5 pounds, 3 ounces when she was born.

“The first year we really beat ourselves up over that,” he said of how they pondered whether to terminate the pregnancy.

As Madison grew, so did her popularity, especially among people who’d gotten to know her. Eventually, everywhere they went, Madison was treated like a rock star.

Once, when the family went to an open house at Franklin, dozens of kids shouted “hello” to her. “It seems like everyone who gets to know her, loves her,” Pam said.

On the playground, Madison is the only one who gets around with a wheel chair. But she is by no means limited. She pushes herelf everywhere she needs to go, politely telling anyone who tries to help that she can manage.

After wheeling herself to the layer of wood chips that lays beneath the jungle gym, she flops out of her wheel chair and, using her arms, navigates her way up the stairs, across the bridge and back.

She rolls around from friend to friend, holds hands with one, yells across the playground to another, refuses to pet a dog walking through the park with its owner. Normal stuff.

And speaking of normal ... sometimes she gets along with her brother, sometimes she doesn’t. For the most part, though, Connor, a fourth grader, has been a big help for his little sister. He carries her around when needed. And once, after school, he said to her, “Was anybody mean to you? If they are, you tell me and I’ll take care of it.”

Pam and Rick Harbarth say Madison has taught them more than they’ve taught her. “She’s totally opened our eyes to a whole different aspect of life,” Rick said.

Pam attended a dinner event last summer in the Twin Cities hosted by Chad Greenway of the Minnesota Vikings and his wife, Jennifer. The event was a gathering of mothers of kids just like Madison, including many whose challenges were tougher than hers.

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