There's a party planned at 1 p.m. Aug. 26 at Ray and Deb Lucal's house, but don't expect it to be a pity party.
The Rev. Francis Speier will be on hand for a blessing and an ice cream social will follow. It will be a good old-fashioned celebration at 20 Katherine Way.
The last time we visited the Lucals, a volunteer work crew was on hand building an addition to their house. The work added two new bedrooms and a bathroom. The rooms were handicapped accessible for the family's two sons, Matthew and Nathan, who are confined to wheelchairs with Becker's Muscular Dystrophy, an inherited disorder characterized by slowly progressive muscle weakness of the legs and pelvis.
The Lucals found out 12 years ago Matthew had the disease. It wasn't long after they learned Nathan had it too.
It's been a struggle, but the family has pressed on.
They have received a lot of help along the way, and this last project is a real jewel. There is a track system in the ceiling which can the lift the boys out of their beds and move them to the toilet, shower or bathtub. Matthew, 20, weighs 180 pounds. Nathan, 17, a junior at Norwalk High School, weighs 90 pounds. They are just too big for their mother and father to move around.
"The disease is still progressing," Ray said. "We realize it will develop to where they are 100 percent disabled.
"When the walls were going up, I thought to myself, 'what have we done to deserve all of this time and love," Ray said. "The people gave up time with their own families to help us out. When we built this house, we thought it would be the last phase of taking care of our children. We grew out of that house. That's when Tom and Sharon Austin came to us."
Sharon Austin works at Norwalk Furniture with Ray and wanted to help.
"They contacted Tom Smith and he came here with a pencil and a piece of paper," Ray said. "He drew something up and we changed it a few times."
Work began March 30.
"A lot of this is donations and we don't know all of the people who donated. I'd come home from work and there would be trucks parked in the back (and people working)."
Deb Lucal estimated the project cost about $20,000, but that doesn't include all of the donated time. The track itself was about $9,000.
Deb works at Drug Mart in Norwalk and comes in contact with a lot of people each day.
"Almost every day people ask me how things are going," she said. "It was like a ripple effect ... a lot of people couldn't give money but they kept us in their prayers or brought food.
"Overwhelmed is the way we feel."
Matthew, a 2005 graduate of St. Paul High School, said it's good to know people care.
"It makes me feel good," he said. "There are a lot of good people in this town who will help out."
Nathan said he feels the same way. "It means a lot to me that they cared about helping our family," he said.
Through it all, Ray said the key was looking ahead and never asking "why us."
"We kind of knew how it would progress," he said. "We wanted to be ready. We looked ahead to figure out what we may need ... not wait until we needed it. Everything has to be planned a month or two ahead of time.
"We've been fortunate with my insurance company and Kaiser-Wells.
"A lot of people ask 'how do you do it every day?' You have to do it.
"We go to work, come home, then go to work again. Whatever the boys need, we'll do it for them.
"God gives you a child because he knows you are going to love this child ... no matter what it is going to be like. It's a gift from God.
"When we found out about the disease we said 'so what, we love our kids.'"
Ray said anybody who is facing the same kind of problems can stop in and see what they've done with the house. And if they want a shoulder to cry on, they'll probably get that too.