Local boy inspires through walk to school

With each step Andrew Kriebel took Friday, he inspired family, neighbors and community members.

Just like the 2.5-mile journey he made to Central Elementary Friday, Andrew has come a long way from being bound to a wheelchair in 2009 with Angelman’s Syndrome to where he is now.

“All I can say is he’s my hero because I don’t think I could ever do what he does,” said his mother Amy Kriebel, through tears, after seeing Andrew complete his walk.

Andrew, 12 years old, has been working for more than a year to reach the goal of making the 2.5-mile trek from his home in DuBoistown to Central Elementary. And it has been an inspiring journey to build up his strength and endurance, said Andrew’s nurse Kevin Shreckengast.

“It was work,” Shreckengast said of the process, “because now he leans on you a little bit and stuff but back then he leaned all the time. He had no definition in his legs.”

To see where he is now, brings tears to his eyes, Shreckengast said.

“He is a strong little boy. Seeing what he goes through on a daily life and stuff – he’s doing really good. I hope it helps a lot of people. This is why I went into nursing to help someone like this,” he said.

As Andrew walked, neighbors and community members cheered him on. Some passing by in cars stopped to shout words of encouragement.

“I’m in awe. I’m amazed,” said Anita Stoner, who lives a few blocks down from the Kriebels. “Even though I don’t know him, I’m proud of him.”

Charles Bennett, of Cogan Station, said he would be thinking of Andrew while he rehabilitates following two knee surgeries in the coming months.

“For someone with a handicap, it’s just totally inspiring. This inspired me,” Bennett said. “It touches the heart.”

As Andrew came to the last leg of his walk, the only worry is that he would arrive too soon and the school wouldn’t be ready to celebrate his accomplishment. Not even the heat could slow him down.

“He’s got a good pace. He’s pulling us. You can see, he’s pulling us down the street,” Shreckengast said.

Andrew was greeted by students and staff from Central and Rommelt elementary schools, who lined the street cheering him on.

Seeing Andrew complete the walk was an emotional moment for everyone involved.

“He was the most active kid in the world and then he lost his ability to walk. He didn’t walk for 18 months. We had to carry him everywhere. And now that he’s big, it would be murder on us,” his father Dean Kriebel said. “The greatest blessing is to have him walk again.”

“After seeing him back in ’09 when he couldn’t walk, couldn’t get around, and then watch him slowly walk or starting to climb the steps or being able to walk along like that is unbelievable – totally unbelievable,” said an emotional Kathy Furman, Central principal.

The family was thankful for the support of the community. They said the tight-knit community has been there with them through the entire process.

“This community is awesome. People often say, ‘Hey, why don’t you move closer to Philadelphia so you’re closer to his doctors and specialists?’ This is why. You don’t get this in Philadelphia. This is a small town, people stick together. When someone’s in need, they all pull together,” Dean said.

It is the hope of the Kriebels that through their non-profit organization, Andrew’s Special Kids Foundation, they will be able to help others with disabilities.

And as students chanted his name and celebrated him, it was easy to see that Friday was Andrew’s day.

“Andrew will never graduate. Andrew will never go to prom. Andrew will never drive a car. He won’t have sports events. This is his one time to shine and he’s shining,” Dean said. “He’s tough as nails.”