Local boy prepares to take a major step

When Angelman’s Syndrome left him in a wheelchair in 2009, some said he might never walk again. But Andrew Kriebel is no stranger to overcoming adversity.

Over the last year, Andrew slowly has regained his strength, coached on by his doctors and a team of experts. On Friday, Andrew will walk the 2.5 miles from his home to Central Elementary School in South Williamsport.

Anyone who would like to cheer Andrew on are invited to join him. He will leave his home, at 318 Westland Ave., in DuBoistown, at about 8:30 a.m. He will arrive at the school at 10 a.m.

The walk will benefit Andrew’s Special Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing for those with special needs. The foundation was founded by Andrew’s parents, Dean and Amy Kriebel.

Its mission is to ensure that all children with special needs have the adaptive equipment, special education opportunities, safety equipment, therapies and financial assistance for out-of-state travel that they require.

When Andrew was born in 2000, he appeared to be fullly healthy. Just after his first birthday, he suffered a seizure. He also began having staring episodes and started showing signs of possible developmental delay.

Andrew and his family spent the next eight years in and out of hospitals, searching for a diagnosis. Following a battery of tests, doctors finally determined that Andrew was suffering from Angelman’s Syndrome – a rare neuro-genetic disorder that affects one in about 150,000 babies born every year.

The disease may cause severe developmental delays, speech disorders, sleep disorders and problems with walking and balance. However, before 2009, Andrew was a very physically active child, according to Dean.

“Before Andrew lost his ability to walk, he was the most active kid you’ve ever seen. He would sprint all around the house, just a ball of energy,” Dean said.

“In 2009, we knew something was wrong because he just stood there. It was like he didn’t know how to run,” Dean added.

This isn’t the first time the Kriebels have dealt with the sudden, unexpected changes a rare illness can cause.

“Andrew will likely never go to prom, he is unlikely to ever graduate. So for him, doing this walk is a huge life event. Next year, he leaves the elementary school to enroll in high school,” Dean said.

Dean added that Andrew’s classmates, who have known him since he was 6, are excited to cheer on their friend.

“The bottom line here is never, ever give up. No matter what kind of curveball life throws at you, swing at it,” Dean said.

“Andrew’s quality of life went from being good, to being active, to being stagnate. He went through a lot, those 18 months in a chair. But he was never defeated. With every step, he’s getting stronger,” Dean added.

Later that evening, at 5 p.m., the DuBoistown Fire Department will hold a dinner in Andrew’s honor at the department’s social hall. Proceeds from the dinner also will go to the foundation.