Community comes together to support special-needs child

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Tanner Tritz, 8, doesn't let his half-body cast keep him out of his mother's lap in his home in Oak Creek on Friday. Tanner's mom, Sorrel Tritz, says Tanner has been a blessing not only to their family but to the entire South Routt community.

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Tanner Tritz, 8, laughs as his picture is taken in his home in Oak Creek on Friday. Tanner, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and an epileptic disorder, is benefitting greatly from the love and support of his family and the South Routt community, said his mother, Sorrel Tritz.

How to help

Donations to help cover Tanner Tritz's medical expenses and physical therapy may be sent to "The Tanner Tritz Fund" at the First National Bank of the Rockies, P.O. Box 68, Oak Creek, CO 80467. For more information, call Jean Alperti at 736-8135 or Kim at 736-2787.

— When Tanner Tritz's little brother Peyton began to sign Tanner's cast, his parents thought it would have something to do with hockey, a passion of Peyton's.

Instead, Peyton, 7, signed his name surrounded by several miniature hearts with the same message everyone who knows Tanner has for him: "I love you."

Tanner, 8, is one of South Routt's most beloved children and inspirational community members because of his quick smile and contagious spirit, despite facing cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder that has put him through eight different surgeries in his life, including one three weeks ago meant to secure his hips and lengthen his hamstrings and Achilles tendon to give Tanner a better quality of life in the future.

Tanner's red and blue cast covers 3/4 of his body, and will not be taken off for another 3 1/2 weeks.

Jean Alperti, a South Routt resident who knows the Tritz family through church, has set up a fund at the First National Bank of the Rockies in Oak Creek to help the Tritz family afford the years of physical therapy Tanner will need to help him walk and become more mobile and to cover other medical expenses associated with Tanner's medical conditions.

"I first became acquainted with the Tritz family at church a few years ago," Alperti said. "A young couple would take turns carrying a young boy who could not walk. In ensuing weeks, I became familiar with the family and Tanner, whom they carried, and learned of his medical problems. During the time since then, I observed a generally smiley boy, alert and spirited despite his severe limitations, waving his arms and making sounds in response to what's going on around him.

"I was impressed from the start of our acquaintance when Sorrel (Tanner's mother) said that she and Chris (Tanner's father) considered him a blessing."

Sorrel and Chris Tritz on Friday said Tanner has not only been a blessing to their family, but he also is teaching an entire community tolerance, respect and sensitivity.

"Even if he never learns to add two plus two or do long division, he's teaching us all so much," Sorrel said.

Chris characterized his son as a "daddy's boy," and said Tanner is "always, always happy."

"Tanner is very hard not to fall in love with," he said.

"He's a famous person here," Sorrel added. "We'll be at restaurants and people will say 'Hi, Tanner.' And we have no idea who that person is."

Despite his medical conditions and physical limitations, Tanner communicates with his family and school officials using a unique vocabulary that consists of about 50 words, Sorrel said.

"I'm 'Nanny' to him," Chris said. "But he knows 'mom' or 'mommy.'"

"Tanner's life revolves around trains, horses, Elmo, Cheetos, his grandpa and his daddy," Sorrel said.

The Tritz family, which includes Tanner, Peyton and their older sister, Emilee, 10, take each day as it comes.

"We just want to give Tanner every opportunity to have the most full life physically he can, whether he's walking or in a wheelchair," Sorrel said. "It'll be up to him what he wants to do in the future."

Despite having medical insurance, the Tritz family will continue to incur extensive medical costs that include replacing $5,000 wheelchairs every few years, adaptive equipment, medications and physical therapy.

Alperti said she is hopeful the South Routt community will come together to help in Tanner's recovery.

"Having a child with special needs either makes or breaks a family," Sorrel said. "It's made ours."

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