Church, residents rallying

Fund-raisers being held for local man with cerebral palsy

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Jon Allee turns 22 on Aug. 18.

The Steamboat Springs man who has cerebral palsy and is known for his humor and joy could get a big birthday present this year: some independence.

Events Sunday and Friday, sponsored by Euzoa Bible Church, aim to raise more than $10,000 to help refit a Horizons house so that it's wheelchair-accessible and so Allee can be part of the state-funded, assisted-living program.

The church already has raised $11,000 for Allee's cause, with another $2,000 coming from other groups and from Horizons Specialized Services.

"We're just feeling totally great for Jon," said Mike Allee, his father. "He's lived with us for almost 22 years, and he's tired of hanging out with mom and dad."

A few months ago, what Allee would do when he turned 22 was uncertain. He was nearing the end of his time with the public school system, and there was no spot for him in the Horizons Specialized Services program.

Allee's family was making plans to customize a van so he could travel with Mike, a homebuilder and concrete layer, to job sites each day. Then, Horizons was able to tap into hard-to-find funding to secure a place for Allee in the Horizons program.

The last hurdle is raising funds to remodel the house where Allee will live so it is wheelchair-accessible and has an elevator, and to buy a van with a wheelchair lift. Together, that costs about $85,000.

Euzoa Bible Church's two fund-raising events will try to bring donations to the goal of at least $25,000, or what is needed to refit the Horizons' house so Allee can move in as soon as possible.

"The important project is just to give back to the Allee family," said Chris Spradlin, administrative pastor for Euzoa. "We love them, we care about them ... They've always sacrificed for us; they've always sacrificed for everybody. We just felt it was something we needed to do."

The first event will be Sunday, before and after Euzoa's regular 6 p.m. night church service, which is in the Bear River Bar and Grill in Gondola Square. From 4 p.m. to dark, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has volunteered to keep the summer activities in Gondola Square open to the public, with all proceeds going to Allee's housing needs.

The activities range in cost from $3 to $9, and include the Sling Shot Bungee, the East Face Climbing Wall, the Fun House mini bounce and the Giggle Gulch Miniature Golf Course.

"We encourage the locals to come out and support (Jon's) cause for one, and two, just to try the activities in the evening when it's cooler," said Nicole Bargren, summer activities supervisor for Ski Corp, who has organized the event.

And on Friday, Euzoa's High School youth group is organizing a "Parents Night Out" event, in which parents can bring their children to the Christian Heritage School for baby sitting. High-schoolers and other volunteers will watch the children, with all proceeds from the baby sitting going toward Allee's cause.

Parents who drop their children off can go to one of a half-dozen or so restaurants that have volunteered to donate between 5 percent and 20 percent of the cost of meals that night to Allee's cause.

Kim Lambart, a youth group leader, said she has been impressed with the community's support for the event, as well as the enthusiasm of high-schoolers, who are giving up a Friday night and some of their last days of summer to work on the fund-raiser.

The students easily empathize with Allee's desire to live independently, Lambart said. Plus, Allee is their classmate, and his challenges have taught them to keep their own in perspective, she said.

"He's just filled with joy and has such a sweet personality," she said.

The chance for Allee to move to a Horizons house has been a "blessing" to the Allee family, his father said.

"We never thought that he would have a set-up like this," Mike Allee said. It's "heaven on earth" to know that Jon has an independent living situation, long-term care and a community that accepts him, he said.

Anyone interested in making a contribution can contact Horizons Specialized Services.

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