Event aims to keep family moving with special van

Like any other 13-year-old, Izabelle Shepard loves to listen to live music, be out among the crowds and go to the mall.

She gets excited any time she gets to take a trip, whether that’s to school or somewhere else with her parents.

But it’s becoming increasingly difficult for her family to take her to do the activities she enjoys. Izabelle suffers from cerebral palsy as well as a chromosome disorder called Phelan-McDermid syndrome. She needs a wheelchair at all times.

Lifting the 80-pound girl in and out of the family’s van has taken a toll, her mother, Tina Shepard, said.

“A lot of times, if we’re home just the two of us, I can’t do it,” she said. “She likes to ‘go.’”

Izabelle and her family will be the beneficiaries of a fundraiser Wednesday organized by the Noah Kriese Foundation. The organization will host its second Noah’s Ghoulish Gourds, a Halloween-themed event and concert from 6 to 9 p.m. at SS. Francis and Clare Catholic Church.

The event will feature a spaghetti dinner from Vito Provolone’s, a silent auction and a concert by singer-songwriter Jon Klaasen. People can bring their best-carved pumpkins to be judged. Kids games and goodie bags will be provided.

All of the proceeds will go to benefit the Franklin Township family with the hopes of helping them purchase a wheelchair-accessible van.

“For any of them to go anywhere at this point, it takes both of them to lift her into the van,” said Susan Kriese, president of the foundation and Noah’s mother. “She loves to go to school, but it’s got to the point where (Tina Shepherd) can’t get her in and out by herself.”

The foundation was created in honor of Noah Kriese, a 12-year-old Center Grove student who died after falling into the Trummelbach Falls in Switzerland in 2009. Noah was an advocate of helping others during his life and was particularly supportive of friends and classmates with special needs.

The nonprofit organization was formed to help support compassionate projects and service in the community, Susan Kriese said.

“Noah’s passion always had a heart for the special needs kids in his class,” she said. “If Noah would have been in her class or school, he would have tried to do his best to help her.”

Izabelle, who turns 14 on Thursday, functions at the physical level of a 9-month-old. Her condition has left her immobile, needing a wheelchair to get around.

The Shepard family has a van that they use to transport Izabelle to doctor’s appointments, family functions and weekend activities. But every trip requires either someone to lift her out of the wheelchair, strap her into the van in a special car seat, fold up the wheelchair and stow it away.

Particularly when Tina Shepard is watching her daughter by herself, that task can be almost impossible.

Susan Kriese met the Shepard family through a mutual friend and was touched by their story. Working with local businesses and other potential donors, they hope to find some kind of a solution for Izabelle’s transportation.

A wheelchair-lift van could cost from $20,000 to $50,000, Kriese said.

“It’s a big goal, but we’re working on ways to meet it,” she said.

The Shepards said it speaks to the community they live in to see people rally around their family in a time of need.

“It’s extremely humbling to have people who want to help,” Tina Shepard said. “So many are people we’ve never met before. They don’t know who you are, and they want to come forward and help.”

If you go

What: Noah’s Ghoulish Gourds

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday

Where: SS. Francis and Clare Catholic Church, 5901 Olive Branch Road, Greenwood

What: A fundraiser of the Noah Kriese Foundation, created in honor of 12-year-old Noah who died in 2009.

Beneficiary: This year, the fundraiser will help raise money for the family of Izabelle Shepard, a 13-year-old southside resident who suffers from cerebral palsy and Phelan-McDermid syndrome, a chromosome deletion. The hope is to help the family purchase a van with a wheelchair lift to help improve Izabelle’s quality of life.

Tickets: $10 for adults and $4 for children in advance; $15 for adults and $5 for children at the door. Kids under 3 admitted free.

How to buy: Call 294-2180

Information: NoahKrieseFoundation.com

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.